LegenDARy Artists: Smokey Robinson

By @SpeedontheBeat

Smokey Robinson is amazing. I don't think we need me to tell you that. Over a career that's spanned seven decades, he's put out hit after hit after hit, either as part of The Miracles, solo, or just through being a songwriter. Not many artists can make that claim--nor can they say "oh, hey guys. I'm in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame solo and in a group, and I've got a couple stars on the Walk of Fame." 

The road itself wasn't exactly easy. Robinson has experienced heartbreak, loss, and move over his long career. However, instead of wallowing in his tears, he's used those tears to craft legendary songs, some of which have given birth to entire radio formats and genres. For instance, without Smokey's "Quiet Storm," and the genre that came from it, it's possible that some of you wouldn't be born.

I'll be honest, though. When I was younger, I wasn't the biggest Smokey fan. I liked his music and "Tears of a Clown" was one of my favorite old-school songs. But when it came to Motown, I was a Temptations/Jacksons/etc. sort of guy. I knew he was a prominent songwriter and a prominent force in the early years of Motown, but I wasn't a big fan of his songs. That happened years later through J Dilla.

"One Eleven" is one of my favorite Dilla tracks from Donuts. While I'd heard its main sample before, I'd forgotten it in the years between. So, using the internet, I searched for the sample (this was, of course, before WhoSampled was a thing) to hear its full form. "A Legend In Its Own Time" blew me away, mainly because, in 2006, I could, I guess, finally feel all the hurt and emotion Smokey had in his music. Plus, his vocalization on that track was both romantic and haunting. I finally understood it--like I, in that same year, finally began to fully understand love, lust, and, well, the agony and the ecstasy of love, lust, and all of those things.

Naturally, I began copping more and more Smokey tracks. At one point, prior to my iPod resetting and me being locked out of an old Apple account, I had purchased Smokey's entire discography. That's how much I had become a fan of his work. I studied his lyrics and always found some sort of deeper meaning than just "oh, I'm in love/I'm dealing with heartbreak." See, what makes Robinson amazing is this: he puts everything out there for us as listeners to hear--and potentially judge him on. He sang about just about anything and everything and said "yeah, I said this. So...where can I go from here, listener?"

There's not really much else I can say about Robinson without heading straight into fanboy mode. But, even still, Robinson's music is a national treasure. His discography covers the range of human emotions. And, man...he does it so smoothly. Not too many artists can emulate what makes Robinson great and legendary. So, salutes and cheers go out to Mr. Robinson for having such a long and great career full of classic after classic.

Thank you.


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