Today marks the 75th birthday of the musical legend that is William “Smokey” Robinson, founder of the Miracles, producer, songwriter, solo star, and former Motown Vice-President! There’s little I can write about Smokey Robinson’s genius that has not already been written or said about the man. Instead, let’s just say that I share the sentiment of Bob Dylan, who has called Smokey “America’s greatest poet”.
In 1972, Smokey Robinson left The Miracles to focus on his responsibilities as Motown’s VP, and was replaced in the group by a young singer called Billy Griffin. The Miracles had a few more hits in them, with ‘Do It Baby’ and ‘Love Machine’, but, like other Motown groups whose lead singers had left, struggled on, shunning the recording studio and concentrating on touring the nation. Smokey, on the other hand, took a year out and released his first solo album in 1973, Smokey. His solo career then took off with the A Quiet Storm album, with ‘Baby That’s Backatcha’ and the title track, but it would be 1979’s smash ‘Crusin’’ to segment Smokey’s solo career. 1981 saw Smokey drop an international smash with ‘Being With You’, and the year later he released a very similar song entitled ‘Tell Me Tomorrow’ from the Yes, It’s You Lady LP.
The song bares striking resemblance to ‘Being With You’ but that’s not a bad thing. Smokey is on top of his vocal came on ‘Tell’, and he produces one of his most forgotten songs. The lyric, as with most of his best, are simple yet catchy; the instrumentation reveals some eighties drum machine sounds, but it’s enjoyable and works well. The saxophone and keyboard solos are delightful, and on the album version the song stretches to over five minutes.
Take a listen below, and we wish Smokey Robinson a very happy birthday!