Smokey Robinson is a highly acclaimed R&B/soul/pop singer and songwriter with a sweet high tenor who became famous during the 1960s-early 1970s as the leader of The Miracles. He continued his long and stellar career as a solo artist with hits through the early 1990s. Robinson is a highly prolific songwriter who, in addition to penning most of The Miracles top hits as well as his own, also wrote songs for many other bands and artists. He is also a longtime record producer and a former record executive who did much behind the scenes to make Motown one of the top record labels of the 1960s and beyond.
He was born William Robinson, Jr. in Detroit, Michigan on February 19, 1940. His uncle Claude gave him the nickname "Smokey Joe" when he was a child which he later shortened to "Smokey." In 1955, while still in high school, Robinson co-founded an R&B vocal group with four other classmates that would later come to be known as The Miracles. In 1959, The Miracles were among the first to be signed on to Motown and the following year, they released what was to become the label's first hit single to sell a million copies, "Shop Around." With a long string of hits on both the Pop/Rock and R&B charts through the late 1970s, The Miracles were one of the most influential groups in pop history as well as one of Motown's all-time top acts. As one of the main architects of the "Motown Sound", Robinson was one of the label's principle songwriters, penning top hits for other Motown greats that included Marvin Gaye, Brenda Holloway, The Temptations, and Mary Wells. In addition, he served as Motown's Vice President from 1961-1988 and was also an in-house producer and talent scout.
Robinson left The Miracles in 1972 to focus on his duties as Motown's Vice President and returned to the performing side of the music industry the following year as a solo artist. He made his debut in 1973 on both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts with the self-penned "Sweet Harmony" which pays tribute to his former band members. A long string of hits followed that also included "Baby Come Close" (1973), "Baby That's Backatcha" (1975), "The Agony And The Ecstasy" (1975), "There Will Come A Day (I'm Gonna Happen To You)" (1977), "Cruisin'" (1979), "Let Me Be The Clock" (1980), "Being With You" (1981), "Tell Me Tomorrow - Part I" (1982), "Just To See Her" (1987), "One Heartbeat" (1987), and "Everything You Touch" (1990).
Robinson's many honors and accolades include being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989, and the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2016. He earned his first Grammy in 1987 for "Just To See Her," and he later received the Grammy Legend Award (1990) and Lifetime Achievement Award (1999). He received an individual star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1987 and a National Medal of Arts award in 1993. He became a Kennedy Center honoree in 2006, and in 2016, he was awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
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