Smokey Robinson

February 19, 1940
  • Many of Robinson's famous were first recorded by his group The Miracles, which became a featured act for Motown, but had an inauspicious start: When they played the Apollo theater in the '50s, Robinson says they were so bad the owner asked for his money back.
  • Robinson married the female member of The Miracles, Claudette Rogers, in 1957. They were married until 1986; when they split, legal entanglements ensued over Claudette's rights to Robinson's royalties - she left The Miracles in 1964 to raise their two children.
  • Smokey named his first two children Berry and Tamla after Motown head Berry Gordy and one of his record labels, Tamla.
  • Robinson was close friends with Marvin Gaye, and in the '80s they used to get high together. When Gaye died in 1984, Robinson fell into the throes of addiction, with cocaine being his drug of choice. He describes himself as "a walking corpse" around this time, and says he snapped out of it when a friend took him to an enlightening church service in 1986.
  • 1987 was a big year for Smokey; he scored hits with "One Heartbeat" and "Just To See Her," and was the subject of a tribute song called "When Smokey Sings," which was a #5 US hit for the group ABC.
  • His real first name is William. As a child, he had blond hair to go along with his blue eyes and light skin. His uncle gave him the nickname "Smokey Joe" so he would always remember he was black. The "Smokey" part stuck - it proved to be a great descriptor for his voice.


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