Entertainment

Smokey Robinson: The Stories Behind His Greatest Hits


En español | Just looking at the lyrics on the page — “I second that emotion …” or “… it’s easy to trace the tracks of my tears” — the music comes flooding back to the mind, like muscle memory for the brain. Somehow it’s not 2021, but a high school dance or a college party circa late 1960s or early ‘70s. Smokey Robinson’s power is long lasting. In 2015, he even had President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama singing along to “My Girl” (looking like they knew every word) at a White House performance full of VIPs. He’s playing dates this summer that include all the classics at 81 years young.

Robinson wrote more than 4,000 songs and dozens of Top 40 hits, including “My Girl” for The Temptations, “My Guy” for Mary Wells and “Ain’t That Peculiar” for Marvin Gaye. But Robinson also sang many of his hits: “The Tracks of My Tears,” “I Second That Emotion” and “The Tears of a Clown,” among them.

In a series of videos for AARP, Robinson, who is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame and has been honored by the Kennedy Center and with the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, shares the backstory on the famous Motown songs we can conjure up in our heads at the strike of the first chord. He’s a great songwriter, for sure. Here we see he’s a great storyteller, too.


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