“Songwriting is my gift from God.”
It may be difficult to pinpoint the exact moment something kickstarted your career. But for William "Smokey" Robinson, that moment took place 60 years ago, when he met Berry Gordy at an audition in New York City.
The Detroit natives would later go into business together: Gordy would go on to found Motown Records, and Robinson, as lead singer of the Miracles, would later become vice president of the company. Gordy took Robinson under his wing and tutored him in songwriting, as well as "grooming him as a well-rounded musician." Gordy would tell him, "Every song should have an idea, tell a story, mean something." And that's exactly what Robinson did.
Robinson has a musical catalogue of more than 1,000 songs. According to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he's the only man in musical history to be in their hall of fame at the same time as the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, while also being honoured by NARAS as a "Living Legend."
This week, Robinson turns 77, and to celebrate we look at five songs you may not have known he wrote.
'Who’s Lovin’ You,' the Jackson 5
Robinson penned "Who's Lovin' You" in 1960. The song was originally recorded by his group the Miracles, but the most famous version of the song is by the Jackson 5. "I could not believe that someone that young could have that much feeling and soul ... it was wonderful, as a songwriter that's a dream come true to have someone sing one of your songs like that," Robinson said in an interview.
Marvin Gaye, 'Ain't that Peculiar'
Robinson wrote "Ain't that Pecuilar" as a followup to Marvin Gaye's "I'll Be Doggone." While on tour with a calvacade of Motown talent, Marv Tarplin, a guitarist from the Miracles, came up with a catchy guitar riff and shared it with Robinson. ""We were on tour and he came to me because he had that guitar riff, which I thought was awesome. And we wrote the song right there. It was specifically for him [Gaye]," Robinson said in an interview.
The Temptations, 'Since I Lost my Baby'
In 1965, the Temptations recorded "Since I Lost my Baby," another one written by Robinson. It became an instant hit in the U.S., reaching top 20 on the Billboard 100 chart. Luther Vandross did a remake of "Since I Lost My Baby" on his 1982 album, Forever, For Always, For Love.
Mary Wells, 'My Guy'
In 1964, Mary Wells recorded "My Guy," both written and produced by Robinson. The song became very popular for Wells, who was Motown's first-ever female star. "My Guy" topped the charts on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles. A year later, Robinson would write "My Girl" — a response to "My Guy."
The Temptations, 'My Girl'
"My Girl" is a signature Motown classic. Robinson co-wrote this song with his Miracles bandmate Ronald White at the Apollo Theater, when the Temptations were playing as part of a package tour with the Miracles. According to Rolling Stone, after the Temptations heard it, they convinced Robinson to have them record the song rather than his band. The song was released by the Temptations in 1965, and ever since has been a huge hit.
Other artists who have covered the song include Dolly Parton, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. You may also recognize "My Girl" from the 1991 movie starring Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky, in both movie title and theme song.
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