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Smokey Robinson Biography

Home > Music > R > Robinson, Smokey > Biography

Birth Name: William Robinson, Jr.
Born: 1940/02/19
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Years Active: 1955–1972 (Groups), 1972–present (Solo)
Genres: R&B, Soul

Smokey Robinson (born William Robinson, Jr., February 19, 1940) is an American R&B and soul singer-songwriter, record producer, and former record executive. Robinson is one of the primary figures associated with Motown, second only to the company's founder, Berry Gordy. Robinson's consistent commercial success and creative contributions to the label have earned him the title “King of Motown.”

As an original member of Motown Records' first vocal group The Miracles and as a solo artist, Robinson delivered 37 Top 40 hits for Motown between 1960 and 1987. He also served as the company's vice president from 1961 to 1988.

The 1960 single “"Shop Around” was Motown's first #1 hit on the R&B singles chart, and the first major chart success for The Miracles. The song was also Motown's first million selling hit single.

The Miracles remained a premier Motown act through most of the 1960s. The group's billing was changed to “Smokey Robinson & the Miracles” after 1966. Their 1969 recording “Baby, Baby Don't Cry” hit the national Billboard Pop Top 10, and when their 1967 recording of “The Tears of a Clown”was released as a single in 1970, it became a #1 hit in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Robinson began a low-key solo career while concentrating on his duties as vice president of Motown, releasing his first solo LP, “Smokey,” in 1973. His first hit single, “Sweet Harmony” was dedicated to The Miracles.

In 1975, Robinson's solo career took off with the success of the #1 R&B hit “Baby That's Backatcha.” Robinson's 1976 single “Quiet Storm” and its accompanying album typified a genre of smooth, slow R&B that has spawned late-night radio shows called “quiet storm.” Other Robinson solo hits include 1979’s “Cruisin',” 1981’s U.K. #1 hit “Being With You,” 1982’s “Tell Me Tomorrow” and 1983’s duet with labelmate Rick James “Ebony Eyes.” He also recorded the soundtrack to the 1977 film “Big Time.”

After a bout with cocaine addiction he eventually revitalized his career, having hits in 1987 with the Grammy Award-winning U.S. #8 hit “Just to See Her” and U.S. #10 “One Heartbeat.” In 1987, Robinson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist.

In 1999 Robinson received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2002, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. In 2005, Smokey Robinson was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame. In December 2006 Robinson was one of five Kennedy Center honorees.