The reinvention of Smokey Robinson: Live at the Raymond F. Kravitz Center for the Performing Arts
By Malik A. Azeez
For over 55 years, William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr. has been a prolific singer, song-writer, recording artist and record producer. He has mastered the Rhythm and Blues(R & B) musical genre by consistently creating new music and rein-venting traditional R & B standards, era after era. Also, he is well known for his musical creative genius in the 1950’s, when he performed with The Five Chimes and The Matadors; who later became The Miracles in 1958.
On March 15, live at the Raymond F. Kravitz Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Fla., Smokey Robinson gave an electrifying and masterful performance. He performed from 8:23-10 p.m., one hour 37 minutes and sang 15 songs. His performance epitomized infectious soul, pop, jazz and R & B music.
Robinson reinvented song after song that was vintage Robinson standards in a phenomenal way. Some of the songs he performed included: Being With You, You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me, Quiet Storm, My Girl, Tears of a Clown, Fly Me To The Moon(jazz), That Place, Just To See Her, The Tracks of My Tears and Love Bath.
Again and again, Robinson exuded the showmanship of an all-around entertainer who had a great baritone voice, impeccable dance steps, excellent timing and precision. His band consisted of six outstanding musicians that included: two keyboard players, two guitar players, a saxophonist who also played the flute and a drummer. There were three back-ground singers and two women dancers as well. Additionally, Robinson demonstrated his dedication to reinventing his music through creative lyrics and purposeful love songs.
In retrospect, Smokey Robinson was the chief songwriter and producer for The Miracles from 1958-1972. He is second only to Berry Gordy in the founding of Motown Records. Thereafter, Robinson began performing as a solo artist in 1972 until today. And he was vice president of Motown Records from 1972-1991. Furthermore, some of his hit songs include: Shop Around, I Second That Emotion, Cruisin, One Heartbeat and Ooo Baby Baby.
Robinson’s career has been remarkable and he has won numerous awards. In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 1989 inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Later, in 2003, he received The President’s National Medal of Arts Award. Moreover, in May 2006, he received the degree-Doctor of Music from Howard University at its 138th Commencement Convocation.
All in all, Smokey Robinson’s gifts as a singer, songwriter, recording artist and record executive have been profound. His career manifests the timeless creation and reinvention of transformative love songs with remarkable redemptive power and spiritual balance. In addition, Robinson did his autobiography with David Ritz entitled Smokey: Inside My Life. His latest album is Now and Then, 2010. Still further, when Robinson performed with The Miracles, the group had over 50 hits and 26 of their songs reached the Top Ten of the Billboards R & B singles chart. And in 1987, as a soloist, he won a Grammy Award for the song Just to See Her.