Smokey Robinson

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William "Smokey" Robinson, Jr. (born 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 thirty-seven Top 40 hits for Motown between 1960 and 1987. He also served as the company's vice president from 1961 to 1988.



Early years and formation of The Miracles

Robinson was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan's North End neighborhood.

According to Entertainment Weekly, "when he was 6 or 7, his Uncle Claude christened him Smokey Joe, which the young William, a Western-movie enthusiast, at first assumed to be his cowboy name for me. Some time later, he learned the deeper significance of his nickname: It derived from smokey, a pejorative term for dark-skinned blacks. "I'm doing this," his uncle told the light-skinned boy, "so you won't ever forget that you're black."[1]

In his teens, "Smokey Joe" was shortened to "Smokey." In an interview, Robinson claims he has been friends with Diana Ross since she was eight (I seen smokey on the Monique show last night and he said he met her when he was 8 years old) years old.[2] Around this time Robinson began listening to Nolan Strong & The Diablos, a Fortune Records recording artist. Strong's high tenor voice would be a primary influence on Robinson. In a 2008 interview with Goldmine, Robinson said: "There was a guy who lived in Detroit and had a group called The Diablos. His name was Nolan Strong. They were my favorite vocalists at that time." [1]

In 1955, Robinson co-founded a vocal group called The Five Chimes with his best friend Ronald White, and Northern High School classmates Pete Moore, Clarence Dawson, and James Grice. By 1957, the group was renamed the Matadors and included cousins Emerson and Bobby Rogers in place of Dawson and Grice. Emerson was replaced by his sister Claudette Rogers, who later married Robinson. Guitarist Marv Tarplin joined the group in 1958. With Robinson as lead singer, the Matadors began touring Detroit venues.

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