William Robinson, Jr. ("Smokey" to all of us) is one of the great songwriters, singers and performers ever to walk the earth – just ask anyone of the many, many entertainers touched by his genius and influenced by his greatness.
Born Feb. 19, 1940 in Detroit, Robinson and his group The Miracles were among the first acts signed by Berry Gordy to Tamla Records, later reincorporated as Motown. Their first hit, 1960’s “Shop Around,” shot up the charts to No. 2 and became Motown’s first million-selling single.
Robinson and The Miracles followed “Shop Around” with hit after hit after hit – 26 of them between 1960 and 1972, including classics like "The Tracks of My Tears,” "I Second That Emotion," "You've Really Got a Hold on Me,” "Ooo Baby Baby" and their No. 1 smash “The Tears of a Clown.”
Robinson also wrote hits for other Motown artists, among them "My Guy" for Mary Wells, "Ain't That Peculiar" for Marvin Gaye and a raft of The Temptations' biggest singles, like “Get Ready,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do” and “My Girl.”
Robinson went solo in 1972 (The Miracles would continue on and have hits without him, though not as many) and continued as a driving force in pop and R&B music. His 1975 classic album A Quiet Storm even spawned an entire radio format, of lush, smooth, romantic soul.
Between 1979 and 1990, Smokey Robinson released nine albums, which yielded hits like 1980’s No. 2 smash “Being with You,” and later hits “Tell Me Tomorrow,” “One Heartbeat” and “Just to See Her.” Perhaps the best of the lot was the sultry, hypnotic “Cruisin’,” which slid into the Top 5 in 1979.
In 2006, Robinson was among those performers awarded Kennedy Center Honors for his lifetime contribution to American culture. Other awards include stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one for The Miracles, one for himself), inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, a National Medal of Arts and the Library of Congress' Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.