In theory, I should be too young to have really been into Smokey and his music.
After all, his first hit record was done in 1959 (Bad Girl) with the Miracles. I was all of 2 years old at the time. However, Smokey’s music as well as all of Motown’s music were staples around my household while I was growing up. As I am writing this, I have just returned from a weekend in NY, visiting my family where I saw several of my older female cousins who are about 10 years older than I am. When I saw them I was reminded of a time once where I was staying over at their house during the mid 1960’s. As it happened, they were having one of those famous Brooklyn basement house parties that weekend.
I can remember seeing them carrying around the album cover for “Mickey’s Monkey”. I loved that album cover with the famous cartoon monkey on the cover..lol
Later on when I got into Jr High School is when I began to get introduced to Smokey in earnest .
I was at a school dance that I heard the song “Baby Baby Don’t Cry” and I danced off of that record for the first time (more on that here)
Naturally at these type of dances and parties I was “layin in the cut” for slow jams to come on, but most especially for a Smokey Robinson slow jam. With Smokey’s slow jams you could always steal a line or two from Smokey and whisper them into your dace partners ear the effect of doing this would usually cause your partner to “dip” ever so slightly!
Now that may not seem like such a big deal these days, but let me tell you (IT’S A BIG PHUCKIN DEAL WHEN YOU ARE A 13 YEAR OLD BOY…..lol)
Whenever songs like “More Love” or “Ohh Baby Baby” would play at a house party or a dance I would ALWAYS be ready to GRIND (and I didn’t care with whom….lol)
During this period of time, the song which would turn out to be Smokey Robinson and the Miracles biggest hit also came out: “Tears of a Clown”. To me this song is absolutely LAME and I could NEVER understand why it became such a big hit.
There is a song from this period which is MUCH better and more representative of the overall philosophy contained in the work of Smokey Robinson. Although the song “Special Occasion” was a minor hit for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles it is one of my favorites and is a GREAT example of the poetry of Smokey Robinson.
As my High School years were drawing to a close, little did I know that the career of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles would soon be drawing to a close.
In 1972 Smokey announced that he would be “retiring” from show business in order to focus more of his energies on his growing family and his duties as a Vice President of Motown records.
When I first heard this news I was devastated , but upon further thinking I concluded that this explanation was a load of crock and that Smokey didn’t want out of performing, he just wanted out of the Miracles (since he was the one with ALL of the talent).
My frustration was quickly relived when the simultaneous release of these three albums:
· “Flying High Together” – The “last album” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
· “Smokey Robinson and the Miracles 1957-1972” – A live album of the “final” concert
· “Renaissance” – the first album by the “Miracles” with new lead singer Billy Griffin
In many ways the release of these 3 albums was the ultimate “fix” for a Miracles junkie, such as myself.
I purchased these three albums and played them ALL as often as possible. At this point I also found out that I was not alone in my obsession with the words/music of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Turned out that two of my best friends from High School (Mike Burt and Tony Elliot) were also into Smokey!
They also had all three albums and many times we would walk into neighborhood parties and DEMAND that the hosts play cuts from the albums…….lol
By this point in time I had become the neighborhood expert on ALL things “Smokey” 🙂
Anytime I would go to someone older’s house I would inspect their album collection to see if they had any albums by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. If they did I would ask if I could listen to it. As the album would play, I read EVERY inch of the album cover to see if there was any new information about the group.
That summer I prepared to go to college and I knew that I could not leave home without some Smokey .so I went over to an older friend’s house named Frank Frazier, who just happened to be a Smokey junkie just like me and borrowed ALL of his Smokey Robinson & the Miracles albums and made a tape. This tape was an 80 min. 8-track tape that contained all of the best songs of the group. Saddly, I no longer have this tape, I lost it somewhere along the way. That tape got me through MANY different situations, involving the
opposite sex during my college years..lol. Today people talk about an artist like Keith Sweat and how he “begs”.
Well NOBODY “begs” quite like Smokey and his “begging” on that tape has “gotten me over” many times…..lol
more to come….