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This Day In History: February 19th
Acclaimed performer, Smokey Robinson, introduced fans of the rhythm and blues genre to the iconic sounds of Motown. Robinson took the music world by storm in 1960 and managed to maintain his reputation as a respected musician for more than six decades.
William “Smokey” Robinson was born on February 19, 1940, in Detroit, Michigan. He founded the Matadors while in high school and added a female vocalist in 1957. The group was renamed The Miracles and they became Berry Gordy’s first vocal group.
The Miracles helped Motown score its first no. 1 hit with the release of “Shop Around” in 1960. Throughout the 1960s, the group continued to produce chart-topping songs such as “You Really Got a Hold on Me” (1962), “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965) and “The Tears of a Clown” (1970) which was co-written by Stevie Wonder.
In addition to creating hits for his own group, Robinson also found himself writing songs for other Motown artists such as The Temptations. His role in Motown expanded beyond that of a regular artist and he evolved into a producer, songwriter and record executive. Despite having a successful decade with The Miracles, Robinson decided to leave the group and pursue a solo career in 1972.
After going solo Robinson released his debut project Smokey in 1973. He also released the fan-favorite album, A Quiet Storm, in 1975. Over the course of his career, he released other albums such as Warm Thoughts (1980), One Heartbeat (1987), Intimate (1999) and Smokey & Friends (2014). Robinson also wrote an autobiography, Smokey: Inside My Life, in 1989.With such longevity in the music business, it is no surprise that he has more than 4,000 song credits to his name.
Robinson has garnered numerous awards including the Grammy Legend (1990) and Lifetime Achievement (1999) Award. In 1983, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and three years later he was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Robinson is also an inductee in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and a Kennedy Center honoree. He also holds an Honorary Doctorate from Howard University and was awarded the National Medal of Arts.