Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
In addition to Smokey Robinson (b. Feb. 19, 1940, Detroit, Mich., U.S.), the principal members of the group were Warren Moore (b. Nov. 19, 1939, Detroit, Mich., U.S.), Bobby Rogers (b. Feb. 19, 1940, Detroit, Mich., U.S.), Ronnie White (b. April 5, 1939, Detroit, Mich., U.S.), and Claudette Rogers (b. 1942).
William “Smokey” Robinson and the Miracles were an American vocal group that helped define the Motown sound of the 1960s; the group was led by one of the most gifted, influential singer-songwriters in 20th-century popular music.
Whether writing for fellow artists Mary Wells, the Temptations, or Marvin Gaye or performing with the Miracles, singer-lyricist-arranger-producer William Smokey Robinson created songs that were supremely balanced between the joy and pain of love. At once playful and passionate, Robinson’s graceful lyrics led Bob Dylan to call him “America’s greatest living poet.”
Coming of age in the doo-wop era and deeply influenced by jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan, Smokey Robinson formed the Five Chimes with school friends in the mid-1950s. After some personnel changes, the group, as the Matadors, auditioned unsuccessfully for Jackie Wilson’s manager; however, they greatly impressed Wilson’s songwriter Berry Gordy, who soon became their manager and producer. Most important, Gordy became Robinson’s mentor, harnessing his prodigious but unformed composing talents, and Robinson, assisted by the Miracles, became Gordy’s inspiration for the creation of Motown Records.
With the arrival of Claudette Rogers, the group changed its name to the Miracles and released “Got a Job” on End Records in 1958. The Miracles struggled onstage in their first performance at the Apollo Theatre that year, but good fortune came their way in the form of Marv Tarplin, guitarist for the Primettes, who were led by Robinson’s friend Diana Ross. Tarplin became an honorary (but essential) Miracle, while Robinson introduced Gordy to the Primettes, who soon became the Supremes.
In 1959, Smokey Robinson and Claudette Rogers were married, and “Bad Girl,” licensed to Chess Records, peaked nationally at number 93. The fiery “Way Over There” and the shimmering “(You Can) Depend on Me” were followed in 1960 by “Shop Around,” the second version of which became an enormous hit, reaching number one on the rhythm-andblues charts and number two on the pop charts.
While Smokey Robinson was writing such vital songs as “My Guy” for Mary Wells, “I’ll Be Doggone” for Marvin Gaye, and “My Girl” for the Temptations, he and the Miracles proceeded to record stunning compositions, including “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (1962), “I’ll Try Something New” (1962), “Ooo Baby Baby” (1965), “Choosey Beggar” (1965), “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965), and “More Love” (1967, written following the premature birth and death of Robinson’s twin daughters).
The Miracles complemented their songs of aching romance and mature
love with buoyant numbers such as “Mickey’s Monkey” (1963), “Going to a Go-Go” (1965), “I Second That Emotion” (1967), and “The Tears of a Clown” (1970).
In 1972, Smokey Robinson left the Miracles to pursue a solo career. Without him, the Miracles enjoyed moderate success in subsequent years (the disco-era “Love Machine [Part 1]” hit number one on the pop charts in 1975), while Robinson produced such solo hits as “Cruisin’” (1979) and
“Being with You” (1981). He also unintentionally inspired the new soul radio format that took its name from the title track of his 1975 conceptual album A Quiet Storm. Robinson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
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