Blessed with extraordinary talents as a songwriter, producer and vocalist, Smokey Robinson is unquestionably one of the treasures of modern music.
But, for many, it’s all about that gorgeous voice, that silky, smooth falsetto, a seductive and sensual instrument of almost supernatural power that continues to transfix fans around the globe.
From his seminal work with the Miracles and as a solo artist to his consummate songwriting and production prowess penning gold for The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, The Four Tops and The Marvelettes, Brenda Holloway and The Contours, Robinson’s songs have been recorded by hundreds of notable artists including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Linda Ronstadt, Sonny & Cher, Elvis Costello, The English Beat, Hall & Oates, Todd Rundgren, The Zombies, Bryan Ferry and many others.
Hailed by none other than Bob Dylan as “America’s greatest living poet,” Smokey’s songs are lovingly embroidered with an elegant lyrical simplicity and eloquence that demonstrates the mark of a master craftsman. Through the years, the artistry of Smokey Robinson — a c — has been saluted in song by such ardent fans as George Harrison (“Pure Smokey” and “Ooh Baby (You Know That I Love You)”) and ABC (“Smokey Sings”), who unabashedly championed his singularly distinctive talents.
For further proof of Smokey’s impact on rock and roll, just listen to The Beatles’ early ’60s jewels, “This Boy” (described by John Lennon as his attempt to write a Miracles song), “Not A Second Time” and their faithful cover of The Miracles’ “You Really Got A Hold On Me.”
Smokey’s last CD, Timeless Love, is a classy celebration of the singers and songs that enchanted him as a child. Within the sensual grooves of his new release, channeled through such legendary tunesmiths as Cole Porter’s “Night And Day” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” George and Ira Gershwin’s “Love Is Here To Stay,” and Bart Howard’s “Fly Me To The Moon,” you’ll hear Smokey coming full circle by paying loving homage to his musical roots.
Do you think the art of great songwriting is lost these days?
Smokey Robinson: No, man, it’s not lost at all. If you think it’s lost, listen to John Legend.
Listen to Alicia Keys. Listen to Maxell. Listen to Beyoncé. Listen to some of these young writers who are writing songs. It may not be to your taste, but they are writing wonderful songs and singing wonderful music. Now, I listen to everybody. I listen to rap, I listen to hip-hop, I listen to everybody, because I’m in the music business, and I wanna know what everybody’s doing. But I’m a music fan, too. You’ve got some wonderful writers out there writing music, man.
At what point did you find your voice as a writer?
SR: I grew up under the tutelage of Berry Gordy. I met Berry Gordy before we started Motown. Berry Gordy was a songwriter himself. He had written all the hit songs for Jackie Wilson, who was my No. 1 singing idol as a kid growing up.
When we started Motown, Berry said