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 noted for being one of the primary figures associated with Motown Records, second only to the company's founder, Berry Gordy. Robinson's countless hits, and consistent contributions to the Motown label earned him the title of the "King of Motown". As both a member of Motown group The Miracles and a solo artist, Robinson recorded thirty-seven Top 40 hits for Motown between 1960 and 1987, and also served as the company's vice president from 1961 to 1988.
Robinson was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan's North End neighborhood, and when still a child was nicknamed "Smokey Joe" by an uncle because of his love of cowboy movies. In his teens, this was shortened to "Smokey". In 1955, Robinson founded a group he 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 called the Matadors and included cousins Emerson and Bobby Rogers in place of Dawson and Grice. Later Emerson was replaced by his sister Claudette Rogers who later married Robinson, and guitarist Marv Tarplin joined the group in 1958.
With Robinson as lead singer, the Matadors began touring the local Detroit venues. In 1958, Robinson met songwriter
Berry Gordy, who co-wrote for them the single "Got a Job", an answer song to the Silhouettes' hit single "Get a Job". The group renamed itself the Miracles, and issued singles on both End Records and Chess Records before Robinson suggested to Gordy that he start a label of his own.
In 1959, Gordy founded Tamla Records, which he soon reincorporated as Motown. The Miracles were among the label's first signees. Gordy and Robinson had a synergistic relationship, with Robinson providing a foundation for Motown's hit-making success and Gordy acting as a mentor for the budding singer and songwriter. By 1961, Gordy had appointed Robinson vice-president of Motown Records, a title Robinson held for as long as Gordy remained with the company.
The 1960 single "Shop Around" was Motown's first number one hit on the R&B singles chart, and the first big hit for The Miracles. The song was also Motown's first million-selling hit single. They scored many more hits over the years. Besides penning hits for his own group, Robinson (often assisted by the other Miracles ), also wrote and produced hits and album tracks for other Motown artists. Mary Wells had a big hit with the Robinson-penned "My Guy" (1964), and Robinson served as The Temptations' primary songwriter and producer from 1963 to 1966.
His hit ballads also earned him the title "America's poet laureate of love". During the course of his 50-year career in music, Robinson has accumulated more than 4,000 songs to his credit.
After marrying Claudette Rogers, Robinson started a family, and named both of his children after Motown: his son was named Berry after the company's founder, and his daughter Tamla after the Motown imprint for which Robinson and The Miracles recorded.
The Miracles remained a premier Motown act through most of the 1960s. Albums were released as "Smokey Robinson & the Miracles" after 1965. By 1969, the group's fortunes began to falter, and Robinson decided to quit The Miracles so that he could remain at home with his family and concentrate on his duties as vice president. The group stopped recording and Robinson prepared to leave the group. Unexpectedly, however, their 1969 recording "Baby Baby Don't Cry" hit the national Billboard Pop Top 10, and when their 1966 recording of "The Tears of a Clown" was released as a single in 1970, it became a number-one hit in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
With the surprise success of "The Tears of a Clown", Robinson was convinced to remain with The Miracles for a few more years. In 1972, however, he followed through on his original plans to leave the group, and The Miracles began a six-month farewell tour. On July 16, 1972, Smokey and Claudette Robinson gave their final performances as Miracles at the Carter Barron Amphitheater in Washington, DC, and Robinson introduced the group's new lead singer, Billy Griffin. The Miracles went on for a while, even having another number one hit, "Love Machine", in 1976.
During the mid-1980s, Robinson fell victim to cocaine addiction. His recording slowed, and his marriage to Claudette faltered; the two were divorced in 1986. With the help of friend Leon Kennedy, Robinson was dramatically healed of his addiction at a religious service. He eventually revitalized his career, scoring hits in 1987 with the Grammy Award-winning "Just to See Her" (a U.S. #8 hit) and "One Heartbeat" (U.S. #10).
Upon Motown's sale to MCA in 1988, Robinson resigned from his position as vice president. After one last album for Motown, Love, Smokey (1990), Robinson departed the company. Eight years later, he returned to Motown, which by then was a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, and released Intimate (1999). The same year, Robinson received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Since then, Smokey has continued to periodically perform and tour. In 2009, he issued the album, Time Flies When You're Having Fun on his own label, Robso Records. Time Flies has been the last album Robinson has released. (info edited from Wikipedia)
Here's a great video clip (wrongly titled), should be "You Really Got A Hold On Me"