Smokey Robinson



Biography

Once pronounced by Bob Dylan as America’s “greatest living poet,” acclaimed singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson’s career spans over four decades of hits. He has received numerous awards including the Grammy Living Legend Award, NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award, Honorary Doctorate (Howard University), the National Medal of Arts Award from the President of the United States, and the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors. He has also been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. 

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Robinson founded The Miracles while still in high school. The group was Berry Gordy’s first vocal group, and it was at Robinson’s suggestion that Gordy started the Motown Record dynasty. Their single of Robinson’s “Shop Around” became Motown’s first No.1 hit on the R&B singles chart. In the years following, Robinson continued to pen hits for the group including “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Ooo Baby Baby,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Going to a Go-Go,” “More Love,” “Tears of a Clown” (co-written with Stevie Wonder), and “I Second That Emotion.” The Miracles dominated the R&B scene throughout the 1960’s and early 70’s and Robinson became Vice President of Motown Records serving as in-house producer, talent scout, and songwriter. In addition to writing hits for the Miracles, Robinson wrote and produced hits for other Motown greats including The Temptations, Mary Wells, Brenda Holloway, Marvin Gaye, and others. “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “My Girl,” “Get Ready,” “You Beat Me to the Punch,” “Don’t Mess with Bill,” “Ain’t That Peculiar,” and “My Guy” are just a few of his songwriting triumphs during those years. He later turned to a solo career where he continued his tradition of hit-making with “Just to See Her,” “Quiet Storm,” “Cruisin’,” and “Being with You,” among others. He remained Vice President of Motown records until the sale of the company, shaping the label’s success with friend and mentor Berry Gordy. 

Following his tenure at Motown, he continued his impressive touring career and released several successful solo albums. In 2004, he produced a spiritual album, Food for the Spirit, and launched a line of soul food entrees. Smokey Robinson Foods’ “The Soul is in the Bowl” products can be found in major supermarkets across the country. In 2006 he released Timeless Love, an album of standards, and he continues to set the bar by which others are judged, as evidenced by his 2009 recording Time Flies When You’re Having Fun. Smokey Robinson continues to thrill sold-out audiences around the world with his high tenor voice, impeccable timing, and profound sense of lyric. Never resting on his laurels, Smokey Robinson remains a beloved icon in our musical heritage.

Watch Past Performances

Video 1/20/2013: Let Freedom Ring

The Kennedy Center and Georgetown University host a musical celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. Please visit the event page for more information.

Video 7/20/2010: An American Playlist: An Evening of Classical Works and Popular Song

Acclaimed opera singer and D.C. native Harolyn Blackwell, Grammy winner and 2006 Kennedy Center Honoree Smokey Robinson, Grammy winner John Mayer, and saxophonist Branford Marsalis join the National Symphony Orchestra. Conducted by Hugh Wolff and Sarah Hicks. Visit An American Playlist for more information.

Smokey Robinson