Smokey Robinson is a rhythm and blues singer and songwriter who is revered by many as the greatest songwriter to come out of America in the history of music. He founded the famous Motown group The Miracles, an incredibly influential music group that inspired musicians in the genres of pop, rock n roll, blues, and so much more. Smokey Robinson was the head singer and songwriter of the group, and he performed alongside legendary musicians such as Billy Griffin, Marv Tarplin, Pete Moore, Ronnie White, and many others.
The group was founded in 1955 and continued to make music for many years, until Smokey Robinson retired from The Miracles in 1972. By this time, he had become the vice president of Motown records, and was feeling weighed down the responsibility. After a time, however, he ended his retirement from his music career and began performing as a solo artist. While his work with The Miracles was nothing short of incredible, he also wanted the opportunity to stretch his wings, as the saying goes, and experiment without the constraints of working in a group.
In 1987, Smokey Robinson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as he so greatly deserved. Sadly, Motown Records was sold to a different company in 1988, and in 1990, Smokey Robinson left his position.
Today, Smokey Robinson has been leading his music career for an amazing total of 65 years, and even at 80 years old, Smokey Robinson is still making music. While his records aren’t as popular as they once were, and many of his more recent albums aren’t charting, his soulful voice and incredible songwriting remain a staple of American music.
Smokey Robinson is such a legend that he may appear untouchable to many. However, he is actually quite humble and down to earth. He interacts with his beloved fans and shows a softer and more vulnerable side of himself, which is rather different from many other celebrities today.
In today’s video, we’re going to take a look at Smokey Robinson’s life and legacy, as well as what sets him apart from other musicians. This man of many talents has led a long and interesting life, and yet, despite the many trials and tribulations he has faced, he still managed to become a star.
Of course, nobody is perfect, and just recently, Smokey Robinson made a huge mistake that went viral immediately. Make sure you stick around to find out how Smokey Robinson’s big error led to a lot of laughs and a heartwarming end!
A Musical Beginning
Smokey Robinson was born William Robinson Junior on February 19th, 1940 to a poor family in Detroit, Michigan. He listened to his mother’s records as a child, and was greatly influenced by artists like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Sarah Vaughan, and Billy Eckstein. Even as a child, music was a huge part of Robinson’s life.
Sadly, his mother died when he was just ten years old, and he was raised by his sister, Geraldine. Robinson was very poor, but he spent his free time writing songs and forming bands with local kids who shared his interest in music. However, he did not yet know that he was destined to become a famous musician. While he dearly loved music, he was more career-oriented at a younger age, and after graduating high school, he tried first to become a barber, and then a dentist. Neither career path was particularly striking, however, and he finally relented and followed his dreams of becoming a full-time musician.
Smokey Robinson’s Huge Mistake
Smokey Robinson recently received a request from a fan on Twitter who explained that his mother grew up on the very same street as the famous singer. The fan, Jeff Jacobson, asked Smokey Robinson to send a video of himself to his mother via Cameo, an app that allows celebrities to send personalized messages to fans. It was meant as a Hanukkah gift for Jacobson’s mother, but unfortunately, Smokey Robinson made a grave error. He completely butchered the pronunciation of the word Hanukkah!
After he realized his mistake, he Tweeted out, “In the spirit of 2020, I’m gonna need a do-over! Please DM your mother’s phone number so we can try this again.”
Jeff Jacobson’s mother got a whole lot than she bargained for, and now is much closer to Smokey Robinson than she would have ever guessed! Smokey Robinson may have made a big mistake, but in the end, a whole lot of good came out of it.
The Creation of The Miracles
In 1954, Smokey Robinson created a group with like minded musicians. They dubbed themselves The Matadors and focused on the genre of rhythm and blues, which is a combination of blues, jazz, and other musical styles. Three years after the formation of The Matadors, however, a new member joined the band named Claudette Rogers. They changed their name to The Miracles after she joined, and thus the legendary group was formed.
Berry Gordy, who would eventually found Motown Records, was the group’s agent. Despite his help, however, The Miracles found life as musicians to be quite difficult. Each member was only paid five dollars a week, which, adjusting for inflation, is equivalent to about 50 dollars a week today. Still, they persevered, and eventually released amazing hits like “The Tears of a Clown,” “Shop Around,” and “Do It Baby.”
He Suffered from a Terrible Addiction
Sadly, Smokey suffered from a few personal demons, despite his outward success. In the 1980s, Smokey Robinson had a close friendship with fellow singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye. Gaye tragically died in 1984, however, after he attempted to intervene in an argument with his parents. He was shot twice by his father and died on April 1st, 1984.
Smokey Robinson was absolutely devastated by the loss, and became addicted to crack cocaine for several years. It was a horrible experience, and he described himself as feeling like “a walking corpse.” Thankfully, a close friend invited him to a church service in 1986, where Smokey Robinson had a religious revelation and quit smoking drugs.
Many fans were shocked to discover Smokey Robinson’s terrible addiction. But there are more secrets to this man than meet the eye. Make sure you stick around until the very end, because we’re going to finally answer the real reason Smokey Robinson got his nickname. And if you’re enjoying this video so far, please take a moment to like this video and subscribe to our channel for more!
His Marriage to Claudette Rogers
Claudette Rogers joined The Miracles 1957, and that very same year, she married Smokey Robinson. Together, the two gave birth to two children: Berry and Tamla, who were named after their first agent and a famous record label, respectively. The two had a happy marriage for 27 years, but they were soon entangled in romantic drama.
While they were married, Smokey Robinson cheated on her with another woman, who gave birth to a son. When Smokey Robinson revealed that he had another child, Claudette immediately filed for divorce. She split from the Miracles in 1964 and raised their children on her own. Smokey Robinson would marry twice more in his life, but nothing would last as long as his marriage to Claudette.
He Didn’t Just Write for The Miracles
With Smokey Robinson’s amazing talent as a songwriter, it should come as no surprise to learn that he wasn’t just employed as a songwriter for The Miracles. He wrote for many other artists and bands in Motown Records as a way to earn extra money. His influence spread far and wide, and he was a key competitor against musicians from the British invasion, such as The Beatles and Rolling Stones.
Smokey Robinson’s Accolades and Achievements
Smokey Robinson won an unprecedented amount of awards and achievements throughout his prolific career. In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989. He also won three Grammys, as well as countless other accolades to celebrate his many achievements.
How He Earned the Nickname Smokey
There has been a lot of speculation about Smokey Robinson’s nickname. After all, he was born with the name William. Some people believed he was given the name Smokey as a boy as a reminder of his black heritage, despite his relatively light skin. However, Smokey has debunked this myth in interviews. Instead, he explains that the name Smokey was given to him by his favorite uncle and godfather, Claude.
Claude and young William Robinson loved to watch Western movies together. Robinson was especially fascinated by cowboys. Uncle Claude then gave his nephew a “cowboy nickname,” Smokey Joe. Smokey grew very attached to the nickname, and introduced himself as Smokey Joe instead of William. When he turned twelve years old, however, he decided to drop the “Joe” part, and simply went by Smokey. The nickname also holds true for his smokey singing voice, adding a whole new layer to the name.
Smokey Robinson has forever changed music in America, and remains incredibly influential today despite his age. Were you more surprised to learn about how he earned the nickname Smokey, or about his personal struggles with addiction? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!