Smokey Robinson Taps Industry Heavy Hitters for New Duets Album
By Ryan Pearson
LOS ANGELES — After five decades in show business, the man who shaped Motown with instantly recognizable hits like “My Girl” and “Tears of a Clown” says he can’t stop writing.
Smokey Robinson says he scribbles down lyrics on a pad or leaves a fragment of a tune on his own voice mail whenever inspiration hits.
“I write on the plane, on the bus, on the train, I write in the bathroom,” Robinson said in an interview. “I do have a bunch of songs that I’m very anxious to record.”
But you won’t hear any of that material on his latest album, “Smokey & Friends.” The collection of Robinson tunes pairs the legendary singer-songwriter with Elton John, Mary J. Blige, James Taylor, CeeLo Green, Miguel, Steven Tyler and more.
Robinson, who is on a U.S. tour, talked to The Associated Press about his duets collaborators and his love of being on the road.
On “Smokey & Friends,” Robinson sang “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” in-studio with longtime friend Steven Tyler, while the other tracks were pieced together electronically from separate recording sessions.
Each collaborator picked a favorite song written by Robinson. Elton John, a Robinson friend for three decades, chose “The Tracks of My Tears,” first recorded by the Miracles in 1965.
“When we’re around each other, we have a great time. Neither one of us is from affluency,” Robinson said of John. “So when you come up like that and your dream is to be in show business or to sing or play and you get the chance to really do it and earn your living, and it’s your life – it’s a wonderful thing.”
Robinson, 74, has been performing for over five decades and won’t be stopping anytime soon. He gets a spark of energy from seeing parents in the audience holding infants.
“The first time I saw those people, they were on their parents’ laps. There’s everybody there from 6 months to 100, and they’re of all races,” he said. “I’m not going to get that anywhere else. I’m not going to get that same feeling, that same vibe, that same energy, anywhere else.”
There’s no after-party after each two-hour show nowadays, though.
“That was the party for me. I’m going to my hotel now. I’m going to watch some TV until I wind down and go to sleep. But it is a party,” he said. “That’s why I still do it.”