February 19 – The Voice That Made Motown

Happy 82nd birthday to one of the great voices – and minds – of 20th-Century pop- Smokey Robinson. William Jr. got the nickname “Smokey Joe” from an uncle who took him to cowboy movies as a kid, but as much as he liked the flicks, Robinson loved music more. Growing up in “Motown” (Detroit), near Diana Ross, he’d formed a doo-wop group called the 5 Chimes by age 13; they’d morphed into The Miracles by 1958. Soon after, he met Berry Gordy Jr. and The Miracles became one of the first acts signed to the then new Motown label. Their “Shop Around” became Motown’s first million-seller and before he was done, he’d contributed to 26 top 40 hits for them, writing many and singing lead on most.

But hits like “Tears of A Clown” and “I Second That Emotion” weren’t all Smokey gave to the record company. By the mid-’60s he was VP of the company and he thought so much of his boss he named his first two kids “Berry” and “Gordy.” The feeling seemed mutual; Gordy wrote that “he reminded me of me – so passionate about his music.” He briefly quit the performing side of music around 1972, to devote more time to his family and business career but quickly found that boring and launched a successful solo career which yielded ten more top 40s through the ’70s and ’80s, like “Cruisin'” and “Being With You”, a gold single which went to #1 in the UK in 1981. His career continues albeit it at a slowed rate; his most recent works being an album of duets with the likes of Elton John, Sheryl Crow and John Legend in 2014 and a Christmas album in 2017.

Robinson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, among an elite group of early rock pioneers that included Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye. In their words, he “put (Motown) on the map” with his “gorgeous” songs and his work as a talent scout. More recently, he was the recipient of the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize, their highest honor for musicians, in 2016.

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This marks post #3000 here at A Sound Day! I look forward to thousands more to come but would like to thank all of you for reading, especially the regulars like Max (Badfinger 20), Jim (New Epic Author), Obbverse, Deke and Lisa (Tao Talk) who seem to be daily visitors and commentators which is much appreciated. But whether this is your first visit to my site or your thousandth, thank you!

In the coming months I hope to have some more new artist interviews and record reviews in addition to the usual daily columns, and perhaps try to get an index going. With 3000 articles mentioning literally thousands of artists and records, that will be quite a task, as you might imagine, but it remains a goal. In the meantime, don’t forget you can search for your favorite artist or record through the search button (the magnifying glass) which appears on top of the site on mobile phones and around the bottom on computer web browsers. Or if using the computer, you can click on the 75 most popular topics for the articles related to them, as listed on the right side.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to let me know through the comments section.

19 thoughts on “February 19 – The Voice That Made Motown

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    Congrats Dave! A great artist to hit that milestone with. There are few artists as important to music as Smokey Robinson. Grew up with the single of Tears of a Clown.
    Congratulations again Dave…and here is to another 3000.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. thank you, and thanks for being such a regular reader! You must be up there in the same range for number of blogs.
      Smokey has a great voice and really did help make the 60s sound with all he did at Motown.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        The same back to you Dave… I used the search feature last night….that makes it so much easier.
        I’m right around 2600 posts…Around a couple of years ago I slowed down to one a day…at one time I did 3 a day…I couldn’t keep that up!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 2600 is nothing to sneeze at , that’s for sure! Yeah, it can be time-consuming, that’s why I often re-run one post from two or three years back (but try to have at least one brand new one per day)… there’s only so much time in a day, plus I figure if they’re 2 years or more older, about half my readers might not have seen it first time and there could well be little updates for me to add.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. badfinger20 (Max)

        That is what I’m going to do in a few months…more than I do now. After the TZ I may take a couple of weeks off but have some older posts ready to roll.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. your Twilight Zone series has been really good and interesting. I’ve thought about doing something like that for a couple of series but resist, so far, because I’m not sure that I have the time readily available to watch a series I like start to finish in order, taking down copious notes all the while.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. I hope the song draft goes ahead this summer; the TV one right now seems a little …well, not so organized, but poor Quinn I’m sure wasn’t planning on having to run it , with no notice.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. 3000? That’s a lot of time researching and keyboard pounding! Well done. (As one of your subjects once said ‘Iv’e got blisters on my fingers!’) Thanks Dave, I, like newepicauthor mentions, am always pleasantly enlightened by your posts, even when I think I know it all.
    Smokey, in his duet with Elton, sounds so smooth still. What a talent.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Obb! It’s a labor of love, as you’re work is too I imagine.
      Smokey does have one of the great voices of pop in our lifetime, no questions about that. It’s good that he realized soon after Motown moved to LA that he wasn’t suited (pun semi-intended) for sitting at a desk in an office looking over paperwork.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Smoky is a great adjective for Smokey’s voice. Growing up in MI I probably heard more Smokey than many. I had to re-listen to Being with You to remember it but did right away. He’s at the top of the game for lyrics and melodies.

    Congratulations on 3000 posts! That’s a wonderful sharing of information on one of my favorite topics/pasttimes/loves. Your sharing is appreciated. Good luck on the indexing, I’m working on doing that also. It’s taking time but am getting there. Looking forward to whatever you bring in the next 3000 and beyond!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. thanks Lisa, and congrats to you for all the posts you keep doing on such a diverse range of topics and genres.
      “Being with You” was a fine song- first single by him I bought. Yes, I would guess you hear a lot more Motown there than some other places, the state should be justifiably proud of that label’s history.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My pleasure and thank you, Dave. You were blessed to be in a musical hub where you were in Canada. I’m proud of the music that comes out of Michigan. I wonder if the harsh weather that turns to paradise here pleases the muse?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That is true, about Canada… Toronto was (is still I guess) a major music hub and at the time I was growing up, it was more receptive to British things than much of the continent so I got a good cross-section of American and Brit music, plus the homegrown acts of course. Michigan too has a really good music history and lots to take pride in. I’ve heard it suggested and tend to believe what you suggest – places like Mich. and Minn., and Canada produce more than their fair share of musicians because the winters are so long and lousy a bigger percentage of kids want to stay in and “hack around” on instruments than go out to play, like they might in sunny, warm climes.

        Liked by 1 person

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