Monday, December 12, 2011

Vinyl Adventures #16

OK, so I'm sure Mr William 'Smokey' Robinson needs absolutely no introduction...does he ?

Singer, songwriter, record producer, record company executive, known as "Mr Motown", he was probably second in importance at Motown Records only to Berry Gordy Jr himself.

Bob Dylan described him as "America's greatest living poet".

The list of songs he has written is, frankly, quite astonishing, "My Guy" for Mary Wells; "The Way You Do the Things You Do", "My Girl" and "Get Ready" for The Temptations; "When I'm Gone" for Brenda Holloway; "Ain't That Peculiar" and "I'll Be Doggone" for Marvin Gaye, not to mention the many classics for his own group The Miracles, "Tears Of A Clown", "Tracks Of My Tears", "I Second That Emotion", "Shop Around" and "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" (later covered by The Beatles).

Born William Robinson Jr. on February 19, 1940, at the age of 6 his Uncle gave him the nickname "Smokey Joe". In African American culture "smokey" is used to decscribe dark skinned black people. Young William was very light skinned and his Uncle told him "I'm doing this so you won't ever forget that you're black". In his teens "Smokey Joe" was shortened to "Smokey" and the name stuck.

In August 1958 Smokey, who was already playing Detroit venues with his group The Matadors, met Berry Gordy Jr and co-wrote the song "Got A Job". The Matadors changed their name to The Miracles and recorded the song with Gordy for End Records in November 1958. The Miracles also recorded for Chess Records and in 1959 Robinson suggested to Gordy that he start his own label. This saw the birth of Tamla Records.

The Miracles were amongst the first signings to the new label and in 1960 their 4th single for the new label, "Shop Around", became Tamla's first number one hit on the R&B singles chart and companies first million-selling single when it reached number 1 on the Cash Box Pop Chart. During their career The Miracles achieved 17 US Pop top 20 singles.

"Whole Lot Of Shaking' In My Heart (Since I Met You)" wasn't written by Smokey Robinson and didn't make the US Pop top 20, it peaked at 46 and missed out on the UK chart completely. The song was written by Motown staff writer Frank Wilson, of "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" fame.

It's a 100mph slice of prime Motown soul featuring an urgent horn section and the Funk Brothers creating dance floor dynamite on the backing track. The vocal performance by all of the Miracles is fabulous but check out Smokey's almost scat like vocalising on the word "I" at around 2 mins 14 seconds, that's a masterful singer at work.

I've just had a copy of this record given to me (yes GIVEN!) and it'll definitely be getting an outing at our next soul night on 14th January. Until then please enjoy The Miracles and "Whole Lot Of Shaking' In My Heart (Since I Met You)"...


cnmnf said... overused, yet so true to Smokey Robinson. Maybe genius cannot really capture his brilliance and command of the moment. Great track. Cheers

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