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Guide Profile: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

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Smokey (far left) and the Miracles

Smokey (far left) and the Miracles

Formed:

1958 (Detroit, MI)

Genres:

Motown, Pop, Soul, Pop-Soul, R&B, Quiet Storm

Original Members:

William "Smokey" Robinson (b. February 19, 1940, Detroit, MI): Lead vocal (high tenor, falsetto)
Warren "Pete" Moore (b. November 19, 1939, Detroit, MI): Vocals (bass)
Bobby Rogers (b. February 19, 1940, Detroit, MI): Vocals (tenor)
Ronald "Ronnie" White (b. April 5, 1939, Detroit, MI; d. August 26, 1995, Detroit, MI): Vocals (baritone)
Claudette Rogers (b. Claudette Marie Rogers, September 1942, Detroit, MI): Lead vocals

Contributions to music:

  • Defined romantic soul, both as a group and during Smokey's outstanding solo career
  • Robinson is one of pop's greatest living songwriters
  • Smokey's falsetto is the finest in rock history
  • Helped establish a beachhead for American music at the height of the British Invasion
  • Smokey singlehandedly created the "Quiet Storm" branch of smooth, romantic R&B

Early years:

An amateur doo-wopper and devotee of Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson, lead singer Smokey Robinson formed his first vocal group at Detroit's Northern high school. Originally called the Five Chimes and then the Matadors, the group auditioned for Wilson's manager in 1957, only to be turned down. Wilson songwriter Berry Gordy offered them his song "Got A Job," however, a response to the Silhouettes' hit "Get A Job." It gave the group, now known as the Miracles, some small national exposure.

Success:

Robinson convinced Gordy to form his first label in 1960 (Tamla, not Motown), and the group was his first signing, finding their first big national hit the following year with "Shop Around." The Motown hit machine then took over, fed by Smokey's own impressive songwriting abilities; Robinson was made a vice-president of the label. In 1963 the singer married Claudette, sister of an earlier member, and she eventually retired from touring (though she continued to sing on Miracles recordings).

Later years:

By 1972, Smokey was eager to start his solo career, and the Miracles soldiered on without him, even scoring a Number One hit in 1975 with the proto-disco hit "Love Machine." By 1978, the hits had dried up, but Smokey was on the verge of solo superstardom, a wave he rode into the Eighties when he created an entire genre of smooth romantic soul called "Quiet Storm." The Miracles continue to tour today with founding member Bobby Rogers, and Smokey keeps going strong with his solo career.

Other facts:

  • Other members have included: Marv Tarplin (b. June 13, 1941, Atlanta, GA): guitar; Billy Griffin: lead vocals; Donald Griffin: guitar
  • Smokey's Detroit neighborhood was home to Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and members of the Temptations and the Four Tops
  • Robinson was ashamed of his high singing voice until he heard the Drifters' Clyde McPhatter
  • Smokey divorced Claudette in 1986
  • Bob Dylan once praised Robinson as "America's greatest living poet"

Awards/Honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987 -- Robinson only)
  • Songwriters Hall of Fame (1990 -- Robinson only)
  • Vocal Group Hall of Fame (2001)
  • Grammy Hall of Fame (1998, 2002)

Songs, Albums, and Charts:


#1 hits:
Pop:

    as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
  • "The Tears Of A Clown" (1970)
    as the Miracles
  • "Love Machine (Part 1)" (1976)
R&B:
  • "Shop Around" (1961)
  • "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" (1963)
    as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
  • "I Second That Emotion" (1968)
  • "The Tears Of A Clown" (1970)
    Smokey Robinson
  • "Baby That's Backatcha" (1975)
  • "Being With You" (1981)
Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "Shop Around" (1961)
  • "Mickey's Monkey" (1963)
  • "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" (1963)
    as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
  • "I Second That Emotion" (1967)
    Smokey Robinson
  • "Cruisin'" (1980)
  • "Being With You" (1981)
  • "Just to See Her" (1987)
  • "One Heartbeat" (1987)
R&B:
  • "Mickey's Monkey" (1963)
  • "My Girl Has Gone" (1965)
  • "Ooo Baby Baby" (1965)
  • "The Tracks Of My Tears" (1965)
  • "(Come 'Round Here) I'm the One You Need" (1966)
  • "Going To A Go-Go" (1966)
    as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
  • "More Love" (1967)
  • "The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage" (1967)
    as the Miracles
  • "Do It Baby" (1974)
  • "Don't Cha Love It" (1975)
  • "Love Machine (Part 1)" (1976)
    Smokey Robinson
  • "Baby Come Close" (1974)
  • "I Am I Am" (1975)
  • "The Agony And The Ecstasy" (1975)
  • "Open" (1976)
  • "There Will Come A Day (I'm Gonna Happen To You)" (1977)
  • "Cruisin'" (1979)
  • "Let Me Be The Clock" (1980)
  • "Tell Me Tomorrow - Part I" (1982)
  • "I've Made Love To You A Thousand Times" (1983)
  • "Just to See Her" (1987)
  • "One Heartbeat" (1987)
  • "Everything You Touch" (1990)
Wrote or co-wrote: Robinson only: "(You Gotta Walk) Don't Look Back," Peter Tosh; "Ain't That Peculiar," "I'll Be Doggone," Marvin Gaye; "My Guy," "Two Lovers," "You Beat Me To The Punch," Mary Wells; "Don't Mess With Bill," "The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game," The Marvelettes; "First I Look At The Purse," The Contours; "Get Ready," "My Girl," "Since I Lost My Baby," "The Way You Do The Things You Do," The Temptations Other important recordings: "I'll Try Something New," "Sweet Harmony," "Quiet Storm"
Covered by: Bryan Ferry, Linda Ronstadt, Elvis Costello, Laura Nyro, Big Country, D'Angelo, Kim Carnes, Brenda Russell
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