In this ‘Rare Cut’ we take a look Smokey & The Miracles cover of Michael Jackson’s epic love-song ‘Got To Be There’ from the 1972 album Flying High Together.
After the immense success of the debut releases from The Jackson 5, led of course by Michael, Motown sought to make the group’s young lead singer a solo star in his own right. In 1971 they set about to achieve that and released the Elliot Willensky written ballad ‘Got To Be There’. As Motown hoped, the song became a smash for Michael Jackson, reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles and #5 on the UK Singles Chart. The song would later be covered by Chaka Khan, George Benson and Boyz II Men; but perhaps the best cover of the song, indeed perhaps even the best version of the song, was that of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles on their final studio album together, Flying High Together.
Despite the group’s success, Smokey Robinson had decided to quit The Miracles to concentrate on his duties as Motown’s Vice-President, as well as to spend more time with his family away from touring the world. Robinson had tried to leave earlier, but after ‘The Tears of a Clown’ made it big he stayed with the group. But the inevitably finally happened and Robinson’s departure was announced: a farewell tour was scheduled, and a final album. Flying High Together hit #46 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart buoyed by the success of the single ‘We’ve Come Too Far to End It Now’, a sentimental song perfect for the occasion. Indeed, the rest of the album featured in a similar manner. The album also featured several covers: a so-so cover of The Stylistics massive soul hit ‘Betcha By Golly Wow’, plus the ‘Theme from Love Story’, and The Chi-Lites classic ‘Oh Girl’. But for us the best moment on the record is the group’s excellent cover of ‘Got To Be There’.
Backed by the group’s long time guitar virtuoso Marv Tarplin, Smokey and The Miracles combine their vocals to create pure harmonic beauty. Interestingly, for all of Smokey’s brilliant musicianship and skill as a producer, this is the only song on the album that he produces. And what a sterling job he did: the harmonies are simply stunning, and Smokey’s lead is gorgeous. The tempo of the song is slowed down slightly from the Michael Jackson version, allowing the group to really extend their vocals and explore the beauty of the song itself. There’s not much else to write about this song than to simply say: have a listen; you’ll be glad you did.