Save for founder Berry Gordy, no single figure has been more closely allied with the Detroit-based recording empire known as Motown than William “Smokey” Robinson. In addition to leading the Miracles, Robinson served as a Motown producer, songwriter, talent scout and Gordy’s most trusted confidant and right-hand man.

”He reminded me of me - so excited and passionate about his music,” Gordy wrote in his autobiography, To Be Loved. Robinson’s Miracles were the second act signed to Gordy’s management and production company. Everything at Motown was a family affair in those days. The Supremes (first known as the Primettes) wound up auditioning at Motown because Diana Ross was a neighbor of Robinson’s, and Primettes guitarist Marv Tarplin became an accompanist, arranger and cowriter in the Miracles.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles scored twenty-seven pop-soul hits at Motown between 1960 and 1971, including the classics “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Mickey’s Monkey,” “Going to a Go-Go” and “I Second That Emotion.” They also explored the sweeter side of soul with a string of exquisite ballads sung by Robinson in a satiny falsetto. The Miracles’ brightest moments on record - “Ooh Baby Baby,” “The Tracks of My Tears” and “The Tears of a Clown” foremost among them - still kindle memories for those who came of age in the Sixties.

The Miracles began as the Matadors, a five-member harmony group who sang original songs by the prolific, teenaged Robinson. Their lineup included Robinson, Ronnie White, Warren Moore, and siblings Bobby and Claudette Rogers. The Matadors charmed Gordy at an impromptu audition, and the renamed group’s first single ("Got a Job” b/w “My Mama Done Told Me") was released on Robinson’s eighteenth birthday in 1958. The Miracles’ first hit, “Shop Around,” established Gordy’s Tamla label on the national scene and paved the way for Motown’s family of labels and artists. “Shop Around,” which had a rawer, bluesier feel than much of the Miracles’ later work, sold a million copies in early 1961.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were founded upon devotion and constancy. The Miracles recorded on Tamla through 1976, and Robinson remained allied with Motown’s original imprint as a solo artist through the mid-Eighties. Robinson married Claudette Rogers in 1959, and their union lasted twenty-seven years. She withdrew from the Miracles’ touring lineup in 1965, leaving them a quartet, but continued to sing on every Miracles record until Robinson’s departure from the group in 1972.

Robinson’s words mingled sincerity and eloquence, often describing love with unique metaphors. Bob Dylan once pronounced him America’s “greatest living poet.” As a singer, Robinson could evoke joy, sadness and their bittersweet combination with his velvety high tenor. Legend has it that audience members would break into tears when Robinson and the Miracles sang “The Tracks of My Tears.” Even the notoriously hard-to-please Berry Gordy proclaimed the song a masterpiece. It also presaged another tear-streaked classic, “The Tears of a Clown,” which in 1970 became the Miracles’ first Number One pop hit. The period 1963 to 1966 found the group operating at a creative and commercial peak, including the release of their best album, the hit-filled Going to a Go-Go.

Excluding compilations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles released fifteen albums for Motown,. On his own Robinson recorded sixteen albums for Tamla and Motown. He also wrote and produced for numerous other Motown artists, including Marvin Gaye ("Ain’t That Peculiar,” “I’ll Be Doggone"), the Temptations ("Get Ready,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “My Girl"), Mary Wells ("My Guy,” “You Beat Me to the Punch") and the Marvelettes ("Don’t Mess With Bill,” “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game").

In July 1972, Robinson parted ways with the Miracles, and both entities enjoyed continued success. Robinson’s biggest solo hits - “Cruisin’” (#4) and “Being With You” (#2) - came in the late Seventies and early Eighties. A fixture at Motown, he served as vice-president until the company’s sale to MCA in 1988. He remained with the label as an artist for two more years after that. In the late Eighties he beat an addiction to cocaine, documented in his autobiography In My Life. After Motown, Robinson continued to record, re-emerging on Motown in 1999 with Intimate. The born-again singer released his first gospel album, Food for the Spirit, in 2004.


February 19, 1940: William “Smokey” Robinson is born in Detroit, Michigan.

1955: Smokey Robinson forms a group - first named the Matadors, then the Miracles - at Detroit’s Northern High School.

February 19, 1958: “Got a Job,” the first single by the Miracles, is released on the End label. Its release coincides with leader Smokey Robinson’s eighteenth birthday.

November 7, 1959: Smokey Robinson marries fellow Miracle Claudette Robinson. The marriage will last twenty-seven years and yield two children, Berry and Tamla.

October 15, 1960: “Shop Around,” credited to “The Miracles (featuring Bill “Smokey” Robinson),” is released. The first national hit for Berry Gordy’s Tamla label, it tops the R&B chart for eight weeks.

June 16, 1961: Hi We’re the Miracles, the first album by the Smokey Robinson-led group, is released.

November 2, 1962: The first live “Motortown Revue,” featuring such Motown artists as the Miracles, opens in Boston.

December 29, 1962: “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me,” by the Miracles, enters R&B chart, where it will become the group’s second Number One R&B hit.

March 6, 1965: “My Girl,” written by Smokey Robinson and Ronnie White of the Miracles, becomes a #1 hit for the Temptations.

November 1, 1965: Going to a Go-Go, by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, is released. It reaches #8 and yields four hits: “Ooo Baby Baby” (#4 R&B, #16 pop), “The Tracks of My Tears” (#2 R&B, #16 pop), “My Girl Has Gone” (#3 R&B, #14 pop) and “Going to a Go-Go” (#2 R&B, #11 pop).

January 27, 1967: The release of “The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage” marks a change in artist credit from “The Miracles” to “Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.” The song will peak at #20.

April 1968: Greatest Hits, Vol.2, by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, reaches #7. It will be the highest-peaking album of the group’s career.

December 12, 1970: “The Tears of a Clown,” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, reaches Number One for the first of two weeks.

July 14-16, 1972: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ concert performances in Washington D.C. are recorded for the album 1957-1972, which ends Robinson’s quarter century with the band he founded. Robinson graduates to a solo career, and the Miracles replace him with Billy Griffin.

November 15, 1972: Smokey Robinson’s final single with the Miracles, “I Can’t Stand to See You Cry,” is released.

1974: The Miracles’ “Love Machine,” the group’s biggest hit of the post-Smokey Robinson era, reaches Number One.

April 19, 1975: A Quiet Storm, the third solo album by Smokey Robinson, is released. The title would be adapted as both the name of a radio format and a romantic subgenre of soul, as defined by Robinson.

March 21, 1981: The biggest hit of Smokey Robinson’s solo career, “Being With You” (#1 R&B, #2 pop), is released.

January 21, 1987: Smokey Robinson is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the second annual induction dinner. Daryl Hall and John Oates are his presenters.

February 1994: Motown issues The 35th Anniversary Compilation, a four-CD overview of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ remarkable career.

February 27, 1997: Smokey Robinson reunites with the Miracles to be honored at the eight annual Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Awards in New York.

February 24, 1999: Smokey Robinson receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 41st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

April 2004: Smokey Robinson releases Food for the Spirit, his first gospel album and first album of any kind in five years.

I bet when Smokey sleeps, he dreams of writing music

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Oh my.....goodness! These photos are the best I've seen of Smokey!!!!!!!
I remember when I saw Smokey in 1981@ the Berkley Performance Center in Boston, Very awesome performance!!!
The first time i saw Smokey in concert was 1981, i was 14 years old and that was my first concert that Uncle Beany took me to...The Platters were the opening act. I saw him again at a Festival here in 1989
AMEN...Brother Michael, i love comments like that...LOL
OMG I didn't know Smokey had so much to do wiith sooo many other artist songs. I love Ain't that Peculiar/Marvin Gaye...The Way You Do The Things You Do, My Girl, My Guy and others. I also didn't know he is a born - again singer and have done a gospel album. I have learned a few thing today.....thanks Soulful Sole.
You're very welcome Bert


He sure looks good...my goodness!


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Spotlight | Maze

  1. play Maze — 03 Feel That You're Feelin'
  2. play Maze — 04 Somebody Else's Arms
  3. play Maze — 04 Southern Girl
  4. play Maze — Can't Get Over You
  5. play Maze — Golden Time Of Day
  6. play Norman Brown — Night Drive
  7. play Norman Brown — Feeling
  8. play Norman Brown — Still
  9. play Miles Davis — miles 1
  10. play miles 2
  11. play miles 3
  12. play miles 4
  13. play miles 5
  14. play Marvin Gaye — I Met A Little Girl
  15. play Santana — 01 Singing Winds, Crying Beasts
  16. play Santana — 02 Black Magic Woman-Gypsy Queen
  17. play Mongo — 02. Afro Blue

The history of the Butlers/Raw Soul is dense, but for all of us music nerds, that's normal. It is not totally clear what year the Butlers actually formed but they released their first single in 1963 on Liberty Records. That single was "She Tried To Kiss Me" and another single followed on Guyden entitled "Lovable Girl." After the Guyden single the Butlers took a break not recording another record until the single "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" was released on the Phila label in 1966. The group also backed Charles Earland and Jean Wells on one Phila single ("I Know She Loves Me"). 

As you might be noticing, the Butlers were doing a fair amount of recording but not achieving much success. The group's recordings sold regionally but never had the promotion to make an impact on the national scene. After the single with Phila, the Butlers moved to the Fairmount label (part of the Cameo-Parkway family) and released a handful of singles, some being reissued singles of the past. The Butlers were with Fairmount for 1966-67 and then moved to Sassy Records. Sassy released the group's greatest single (in my opinion) "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" b/w "If That's What You Wanted." A copy of that 45 sold for just under $500 last summer on eBay. Even though that isn't that much in the world of record collecting--it's still a hefty sum. The Butlers released another single on Sassy ("She's Gone" b/w "Love Is Good") that appears to be even 
harder to come by then the "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" single.


The true history become a bit blurred here as the AMG biography states that the Butlers last record was released on C.R.S. in 1974 (". However, between 1971 and that single, Frankie Beverly formed a group called Raw Soul and released a number of singles. Some of the songs recorded by Beverly during this period are "While I'm Alone," "Open Up Your Heart," (both on the Gregor label) and "Color Blind." "Color Blind" was released by the Eldorado label and rerecorded by Maze. Beverly's big break came when Marvin Gaye asked Raw Soul to back him on a tour. Gaye helped Beverly/Raw Soul get a contract at Capitol. Beverly decided to take the group in a different direction, a name change occurred, and Maze was created. 

The above isn't the most complete history of Beverly but hopefully someone will know a way to get in touch with the man or his management because a comprehensive pre-Maze history needs to be done on Frankie Beverly (his real name is Howard, by the way). Below you'll find every Frankie Beverly (pre-Maze) song available to me right now ("Color Blind" will be up soon). 

If you have a song that is not included below, shoot it over to funkinsoulman (at) yahoo.com and it will go up in the next Frankie Beverly post (later this week--highlighting Maze). Also, if you have any more information please share your knowledge. The Butlers material has been comp-ed sporadically (usually imports) but the entire Maze catalog has been reissued and is available. 

Enjoy.  "She Kissed Me" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967) 
 "I Want To Feel I'm Wanted" (not sure which label or year) "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" (Phila, 1966) "Because Of My Heart" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967)
 "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" (Sassy, 1967)
 "If That's What You Wanted" (Sassy, 1967)

Frankie Beverly is one of those cats that has lasting power. He started in the music business doing a tour with doo wop group the Silhouettes and then formed his own group called the Blenders. The Blenders never recorded a single, Beverly wouldn't appear on wax until forming the Butlers a few years later. Along with Beverly, the Butlers included Jack "Sonny" Nicholson, Joe Collins, John Fitch, and Talmadge Conway.

Beverly would later enjoy great success fronting Maze and Conway would become a
well-known penning Double Exposure's
"Ten Percent" and the Intruders' "Memories Are Here To Stay." 
 While Maze is a phenomenal group, Beverly's work before that group will always stand out as his best (imo).

The Butlers produced tunes that most Northern Soul fans would kill for and Raw Soul gave the funksters something to pursue. If, by chance, you know of a way to get in touch with Frankie Beverly or his management, please drop me an e-mail. It would be absolutely great to do an interview with him about his pre-Maze work. He's still playing out, most recently doing a New Year's Eve show in Atlanta.
:: Funkinsoulman ::

Power...Through Simplicity ♪♫♪



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