Where would Motown be without the all-time hitmaker and living legend William "Smokey" Robinson? Today - February 19 - marks the 80th birthday of Motown's legendary go-to songwriter, lead vocalist of the Miracles, record producer and record executive Smokey Robinson.
We celebrate his timeless legacy with a compilation of his biggest hits. What is your favorite Smokey track?
10. "Shop Around"
Written by Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson, "Shop Around" made history in 1960 by scoring not only Smokey & The Miracles their first chart appearance, but also Motown's first hit (No. 1 on Billboard's R&B Chart / No. 2 on Pop) as well. Inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2006, the legendary song set the tone for the success of soul music to come.
9. "Doggone Right"
Robinson takes charge with vocals on this 1969 single, pleading away with utmost sincerity that if his girl would accept his love, he would remain "true, 'till the end of time." With a falsetto silky smooth, it's nearly impossible to think otherwise.
This comeback track in '79 proved to the world that Smokey, at 41, still had game. Within the ballad, Robinson's velvet vocals butter the track with romance that reminds us all that love always prevails. “Love is basically what we’re all about, man,” shared Robinson with Rolling Stone. “We’re about our business, the nine-to-five trip, but our basic thing in life is love. It’s the most powerful force. It’s never passé, it’s not a fad. It’s always.”
7. "Get Ready"
The opening line of this magical number, "I never met a girl who makes you feel the way that you do (it's alright)," is enough to make anyone stop and melt with feeling.
Penned as a comeback song for the Temptations, "Get Ready" first premiered with Eddie Kendricks' clear-as-day falsetto in spotlight, bringing them back to the No. 1 throne on the R&B chart. Smokey finally covered the song with the Miracles in their 1970 album A Pocket Full of Miracles.
And one for the real fans out there, we're throwing in Nancy Sinatra's cover of the song in her 1999 album How Does It Feel? below. How's that for a spin?
6. "I Second That Emotion"
Smokey struck gold while shopping with his friend and fellow writer Al Cleveland in 1967. Er rather - he struck pearls. Legend has it that while the soul legend was browsing for some pearls for his then-wife and fellow Miracles member Claudette Rogers, he told the shop assistant that he hoped Claudette would find them to her liking. "I second that emotion," supported Cleveland, intending to say "motion." Realizing they had a title of a potential hit on their hands, the two got to work - with Claudette contributing backing vocals to the tune, which would score major on the charts.
5. "Being With You"
"I don't care what they think if you're leaving, I'm gonna beg you to stay. I don't care if they start to avoid me, I don't care what they do. I don't care about anything else but being with you, being with you." What's remarkable about this image of classic courtship is Robinson's unadulterated ability to present romance so purely. The old-fashioned ballad dates back to his earliest love songs, promises of a beautiful and eternal love. We second that emotion...
4. "You've Really Got a Hold on Me"
Establishing himself as one of the greatest poets of our time, Robinson presents the world's most frustrating paradox, "I don't like you, I don't love you." Equal parts rhythm and blues, equal parts pop, the 1962 song embeds sensual wordplay, Robinson's dynamic range and longtime collaborator Marv Tarplin on guitar. The Beatles loved it so much they covered it a year later. Who can complain?
3. "My Girl"
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Robinson changed the future of The Temptations with when he penned this signature tune for the vocal group. "My Girl" established The Temptations on the charts with their No. 1 R&B status in 1964 and it proved to Motown that the Temptations would soar high when paired with the right material.
2. "Tears of A Clown"
The 1967 mega-hit "Tears of a Clown" started out as an instrumental by Stevie Wonder and producer Hank Cosby. Noting the song's circus feel immediately, Robinson penned his lyrics about a heartbroken lad who feels like a sad clown.
1. "Mickey's Monkey"
We're not sure we can explain this 1963 party track "Mickey's Monkey" better than this video of the Miracles monkey away with their irresistible tune with Diana Ross & The Supremes singing and dancing away in the same room. Talk about a party!
BIRTHDAY BONUS: "Tracks of My Tears"
We couldn't help ourselves with this one. A big hit in the summer of 1965, "Tracks of My Tears" is immortalized as Robinson's most famous songs and an important timepiece in the beautiful Robinson-Tarplin team that peppers Motown's catalog. The song has been covered by Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt and many others since.