THE SATURDAY MORNING SONG CHRONICLES - PAGE 41
-- Paul B Allen III: February 15, 2020
SMOKEY ROBINSON – PART 2 – THE SONGWRITER
The most venerable music magazine in the world, next to Billboard magazine is called Rolling Stone. To even have your name mentioned in either of those journals is something that most of the songwriters on this planet will never achieve.
So, when Rolling Stone published an article named “The 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time,” you can bet that the music world stood up and took notice. You can also bet that the people named on that list are considered songwriting royalty, one and all.
Otis Blackwell, the songwriter that we featured in the Saturday Morning Song Chronicles several months ago, came in at number 98, one notch behind Taylor Swift at number 97, who was one notch behind the songwriting team of Timberland and Missy Elliot, who came in at number 98.
One of my all-time favorite artists and songwriters, Babyface, came in at number 90. And, though we think of him more as an artist than a songwriter, a friend of my grandparents, Mr. Sam Cooke, came in at number 86.
Motown greats Ashford & Simpson came in at number 83, and Marvin Gaye came in at number 82.
Over at Stax Records, the songwriting team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter came in at number 75.
And, another dear friend of my grandparents, Paul and Dorothy Allen of Omaha, Nebraska, came in at number 72. His name was Fats Domino.
Look at these great songwriters and all of the phenomenal songs they gifted this world, and we are not even down to number 70 yet! So, think of what a phenomenal songwriter you would have to be to come in on the Top Ten list. And I’m sure that you have guessed that our subject for this week, Smokey Robinson, has done just that. Smokey is listed as the number 5 all-time greatest songwriter in music history.
But, in Smokey’s case, Rolling Stone added one very important fact. Here is what they said about him:
“The melodic and lyrical genius behind Motown's greatest hits is the most influential and innovative R&B tunesmith of all time.”
Wow! Number 5 in a world dominated by Pop music, and the most influential writer to ever grace R&B music.
Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles, himself listed as the second greatest songwriter of all time, said this about Smokey as a songwriter:
"Smokey Robinson was like God in our eyes."
And Bob Dylan, named the greatest songwriter in music history said that Smokey Robinson was “The greatest living poet.”
When the top two songwriters in the history of music say things like that about the guy at number 5, what does that tell you?
Well, let’s do our own evaluation and see if Rolling Stone, Sir Paul, and Bob Dylan know what they are talking about.
Here is a partial list of songs written by Smokey Robinson according to the website Songfacts:
Ain't That Peculiar - Marvin Gaye
Bad Girl - The Miracles
Don't Mess With Bill - The Marvelettes
Floy Joy - The Supremes
Get Ready - The Temptations
Going To A Go-Go - The Miracles
Got a Job - The Miracles
I'll Be Doggone - Marvin Gaye
I'll Try Something New - The Supremes
My Girl - The Temptations
My Guy - Mary Wells
Since I Lost My Baby - The Temptations
The Composer - The Supremes
The One Who Really Loves You - Mary Wells
The Tracks Of My Tears - The Miracles
The Way You Do The Things You Do - The Temptations
Two Lovers - Mary Wells
Way Over There - The Miracles
Who's Lovin' You - The Jackson 5
You Beat Me to the Punch - Mary Wells
You've Really Got A Hold On Me - The Miracles
Your Heart Belongs To Me - The Supremes
Well, there is no doubt. Even though William "Smokey" Robinson, Jr. has made a tremendous impact on the world of music as a performer, his greatest legacy and gift to this world will be the songs that he has written.
The rare videos this week are really something. We have the Supremes and the Temptations together singing Smokey's "I'll Try Something New." And, out of all the songs I have ever loved by the Jackson 5, the Smokey tune, "Who's Loving You" showed me most clearly what a great singer Michael Jackson really was. You singers out there know what I mean. And check out the Temptations performing "My Girl" and "Get Ready" on the same video. I think that "Get Ready" displays not only what great vocalists they were, but also what phenomenal dancers they were. Their dance routines were the best, bar none. There is another Temptations video as well. It is one of my favorites, because Paul Williams, the first gravelly voiced singer of the Temptations, is singing lead. Soon, David Ruffin would arrive and sing "My Girl" and Paul's days of singing lead would be over, and his downward spiral would soon end his life.
And, again, in my humble opinion, Brenda Holloway was one of Motown's most gifted female vocalists, and it is my pleasure to present her singing another great Smokey tune, "When I'm Gone."
I hope you enjoy Marvin Gaye singing Smokey's "Ain't That Peculiar?" as well as Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers "Malinda," another Smokey Robinson classic.
As always, the Saturday Morning Song Chronicles presents me with a new personal revelation, something that had never hit me before I started writing the article. Today, it is this. My singing a Smokey Robinson song at a karaoke place lead to me being chosen to become one of the Platters! How about that for a revelation?
I had a demo recording made at Ellis Island in Las Vegas, NV. I sang what has always been my favorite Temptations song, called "Since I Lost My Baby." It was not until this very morning that I realized this song was written by Smokey.
A few people saw the video and recommended me to the Platters, and the rest is history. I have a clip of that video and though the sound is a bit degraded, I thought you might like to see and hear me perform the Smokey Robinson tune that literally changed my life. I had no clue when I made this video that anyone, other than a few people in the industry, would ever see it. It was nothing more than a "calling card" for me when I made it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
Smokey, all I can say is "Thank you." The difference you and your music have made in my life is profound.
And I thank all of you for hanging with us these past two weeks as we talked about the dual career of the magnificent artist and songwriter, Mr. Smokey Robinson, Jr. who will turn 80 years old in just a few days. What a national treasure he has proven to be.
We look forward to seeing you next week back here at the Saturday Morning Song Chronicles when we will talk about… hmm… I guess you’ll just have to come back and see.