Smokey Robinson: selected songs written or co-written by, 1960-1967

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smokey-robinson-and-esther-gordy-1967-(1a)Smokey Robinson Biography:

Smokey Robinson interview:

Miracles singles discographies:

Songs written or co-written by Smokey Robinson:

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Miracles 011960 Way Over There, The Miracles, Tamla T-54025, issued in February 1960

1960

Way Over There (Smokey Robinson) — #94 Billboard Hot 100

The Miracles — “Way Over There” is the second of three Miracles singles with the catalog number Tamla T-54028. The number was originally assigned to “The Feeling Is So Fine,” issued in September 1959, backed with “(You Can) Depend On Me.” That single was withdrawn and about five months later, on 22 February 1960, replaced with the original version of “Way Over There,” which had a new recording of the original B-side song. The second version of “Way Over There,” featuring strings, was released on 4 April 1960, with the same B-side as the originally released recording of the song.

According to Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power, 2009, by Gerald Posner, p. 58, Berry Gordy listened to the first version incessantly after its release and became convinced that it would be more successful with the addition of strings. So he hired some strings from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and recorded a new version. Posner says:

Gordy and his small crew went through the ordeal of pulling the original records from stores and independent distributors and swapping theme with the new one. The DJs also switched to the latest version. “They loved it, too,” recalled Gordy. “In fact, everybody loved it–that is, except the public. I had lost the magic. We never sold more than the original sixty thousand copies.”

He realized the original recording had “an honesty and raw soul,” while the second was only a contrived copy. The sound produced by his makeshift studio in his home suddenly seemed more appealing.

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no strings version: issued on 22 February 1960 on Tamla 54028 / T-54028, b/w “Depend On Me” (second version)

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strings version: issued on 4 April 1960 on Tamla 54o28/T-54028, b/w “Depend On Me” (second version)

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1962

1962 I'll Try Something New, The Miracles, Tamla T 54059-75p1962 I'll Try Something New, The Miracles, Tamla T 54059

I’ll Try Something New (Smokey Robinson)

The Miracles — Tamla Records label single T 54059, issued on 9 April 1962, b/w “You Never Miss a Good Thing” — peak US chart positions: #11 R&B, #39 Hot 100; featuring an arrangement by Riley C. Hampton. “I’ll Try Something New” was the fourth top 20 single by the Miracles.

The back vocals include an apparent reference to the 1959 Frankie Avalon hit “Venus” when the other Miracles repeat and linger on the word “Venus” in response to Smokey’s mention of the planet.

Personnel:

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The One Who Really Loves You (Smokey Robinson)

Mary Wells — Motown single M 1024, issued in February 1962, b/w “I’m Gonna Stay” (Berry Gordy, Jr.) — Chart peaks: #2 R&B, #8 Hot 100 (pop)

Song review by Andrew Hamilton for AllMusic:

Mary Wells 1This sweet, shuffler by Mary Wells and its mock calypso beat started a run of hits written and composed by Smokey Robinson, who brought out Mary’s softer side. They did the uncle willie to this one, a dance where you spread your feet about a foot apart and shuffle them in unison from side to side; it never caught on big and was mainly a C-Town/Chi-Town/Motor City thang. Mary had a couple of hits before this — “Bye, Bye Baby” and “I Don’t Want to Take a Chance” — which were solid, but this one was different; the previous singles featured a rough, gravel-throated belt ’em out Mary, but Smokey mellows her out here. The lyrics are classic Smokey, heartfelt and tender, and the Love-Tones’ superb voices made it a number two R&B and number eight pop hit in 1962. A couple of singles later, Mary carried duel titles — “the Sweetheart of Soul” and “the Queen of Motown.”

Personnel (from Wikipedia):

  • Lead vocal by Mary Wells
  • Background vocals by The Love Tones (Carl Jones, Joe Miles, and Stan Bracely)
  • Instrumentation by The Funk Brothers
  • Written and produced by Smokey Robinson

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Mary Wells 2Mary Wells 3

Two Lovers (Smokey Robinson)

Mary Wells — Motown single M 1035, produced by Smokey Robinson and issued 29 October 1962, b/w “Operator” (Smokey Robinson); US singles chart success: #1 R&B, #7 Hot 100

Personnel (from Wikipedia):

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1964

1964 My Girl (Robinson, White), The Temptations, Gordy label single G-7038

My Girl (Smokey Robinson, Ronald White)

The Temptations — Gordy label single G-7038, issued on 21 December 1964, b/w “(Talking ‘Bout) Nobody But My Baby” (Norman Whitfield, Edward Holland, Jr. It topped both the Hot 100 (1 week, 6 March 1965) and R&B singles charts (6 weeks: 30 January-6 March 1965).

From the NPR article ‘My Girl’ by Elizabeth Blair, dated June 24, 2000:

Temptations 1Eddie Kendricks sang lead on a number of the group’s early hits. But Smokey Robinson sensed that if he wrote a song, the right song, for heartthrob David Ruffin, he’d be launching a new star.

“David Ruffin, I knew, was like this sleeping giant in this group because he had this—it’s sort of like a mellow gruff-sounding voice. And all I needed was the right song for his voice and I felt like I would have a smash hit record. So I sat down at the piano to write a song for David Ruffin’s voice. So I wanted to make it something that he could belt out, but yet make it melodic and sweet.”

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1965

Miracles on Ready Steady Go set 1

(above) The Miracles on the set of Ready Steady Go!, December 1964 — (l. to r.) Smokey Robinson, Bobby Rogers,  Claudette Rogers, Ronald White, and Pete Moore

Miracles with Berry Gordy1965 Tracks of My Tears (EP), Miracles, Tamla Motown (France) TMEF 513

The Tracks of My Tears (Smokey Robinson, Warren Moore, Marvin Tarplin)

The Miracles — Tamla Records label single T-54118, issued on 23 June 1965, b/w “A Fork in the Road” — US peak chart positions: #2 R&B, #16 Hot 100 (pop)

From a 2010 Smokey Robinson interview conducted by Jon Wilde:

The Tracks Of My Tears took two days to write. The melody was all there and I had the opening lines, “Take a good look at my face…” Then the image came into my mind of someone who had cried so much that, if you looked closely enough, those tears had actually made tracks in their face. And that was it. Once I’d got that image fixed, the words poured out of me. (Sings) “People say I’m the life of the party, because I tell a joke or two…”

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Marvelettes as trio by Kriegsmann, c.19651966 Don't Mess With Bill, Marvelettes, Tamla Motown (Netherlands) GO 42.634

Don’t Mess With Bill (Smokey Robinson)

The Marvelettes — Tamla single T 54126 issued on 26 November 1965, b/w “Anything You Wanna Do.” US singles chart peaks: #7 Hot 100  in February 1966, and #3 R&B. It was the final top 10 (Hot 100) single by the Marvelettes.

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(below) performance on Hullabaloo, Season 2, Episode 40; aired: 14 February 1966

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1966

Marvelettes c. 1965 (Wanda Young, Katherine Anderson and Gladys Horton)-1a-d50Marvelettes by Kriegsmann 2

The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game (Smokey Robinson)

Marvelettes_live_1The Marvelettes — Tamla ‎label single T-5414, issued on 27 December 1966, b/w “I Think I Can Change You” (Smokey Robinson); US singles chart peaks: #2 Hot R&B,  #13 Hot 100 — Artists to record the song include Ella Fitzgerald (1969), Jerry Garcia (1974), Grace Jones (1980), and Blondie (1982).

Personnel:

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1967

The Tears of a Clown (Stevie Wonder, Hank Cosby, Smokey Robinson)

Under “Origins” Wikipedia says,

1970 Tears of a Clown, Smokie Robinson & the Miracles, Tamla Motown (Netherlands) 5C 006-91787, issued in August 1970Stevie Wonder (who was discovered by Miracles member Ronnie White), and his producer Hank Cosby wrote the music for the song, and Cosby produced the instrumental track recording. Wonder brought the instrumental track to the 1966 Motown Christmas party because he could not come up with a lyric to fit the instrumental.[2] Wonder wanted to see what Robinson could come up with for the track.[3] Robinson, who remarked that the song’s distinctive calliope motif “sounded like a circus,” provided lyrics that reflected his vision and sang lead vocal. In the song, his character, sad because he does not have a woman who loves him, compares himself to the characters in the opera Pagliacci, comedians/clowns who hide their hurt and anger behind empty smiles.[4] He had used this comparison before: the line “just like Pagliacci did/I’ll try to keep my sadness hid” appears in the song “My Smile Is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down),” which he had written in 1964 for Motown artist Carolyn Crawford.

The Miracles released its recording on the album Make It Happen, in August 1967. Almost three years later, in July 1970 it was reissued in the UK as the Tamla Motown single TMG 745, which became a #1 hit on the UK pop chart (1 week, 12 September 1970). Quick to take a hint, Motown soon brought out a US single. Tamla single T 54199, b/w “Promise Me,” was issued on 24 September 1970, whereupon it climbed to the top of both the Hot 100 (2 weeks, 12 and 19 December) and the R&B (3 weeks, 5-19 December) charts.

Partially live TV studio recording for the Andy Williams Show, 1971 — While Smokey Robinson’s vocal appears to be recorded live, the music and the back vocals (the other singers aren’t miked) are evidently prerecorded.

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(below) Partially live TV studio recording for unknown television show, c. 1971 — As with the Andy Williams Show appearance (above), Robinson’s vocal is evidently the only element being recorded live.

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Smokey RobinsonSmokey Robinson, young 1a

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P.S. – I’ve skipped quite a few big 60s hits written or co-written by Smokey Robinson. Some of those not featured here, including eight #1 R&B hits:

The Miracles
1960: “Shop Around” (US #2 Hot 100, #1 R&B: 8 weeks, 16 January-6 March 1961)
1962: “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (US #8 Hot 100, #1 R&B: 1 week, 16 February 1963))
1963: “Mickey’s Monkey” (US #8 Hot 100, #3 R&B)
1965: “Ooo Baby Baby” (US #16 Hot 100, #4 R&B)

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
1967: “I Second That Emotion” (US #4 Hot 100, #1 R&B: 1 week, 13 January 1967)
1967: “More Love” (US #23 Hot 100, #5 R&B)
1969: “Baby, Baby Don’t Cry” (US #8 Hot 100, #3 R&B)

Mary Wells:
1962: “You Beat Me to the Punch” (US #9 Hot 100, #1 R&B: 1 week, 22 September 1962)
1964: “My Guy” (US #1 Hot 100: 2 weeks, 15-23 May 1964, US Cashbox #1 R&B: 7 weeks)

The Temptations:
1964: “The Way You Do the Things You Do” (US #11 Hot 100, US Cashbox #1 R&B: 1 week)
1965: “Since I Lost My Baby” (US #17 Hot 100, #4 R&B)

Marvin Gaye:
1965: “I’ll Be Doggone” (US #8 Hot 100, #1 R&B: 1 week, 22 May 1965)
1965: “Ain’t That Peculiar” (US #8 Hot 100, #1 R&B: 1 week, 27 November 1965)

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Helen Antonuccio
    Feb 20, 2015 @ 13:42:40

    this is great… really enjoyed reading and seeing the old pix… thanks

    Reply

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