Mark Edmundson hooks up with soul legend Smokey Robinson and finds 50 years in music have not mellowed his enthusiasm for life
‘He sat us down on the very first day of Motown and he said, “We’re not going to make black music, we’re going to make people music. We’re going to make music for everyone. We’re going to make music with some great beats and some great stories, and we’re going to make quality music”.’
This is the testament of Berry Gordy’s best friend and closest ally, the satin-voiced producer, songwriter, talent scout and former vice president of Tamla Motown, William Robinson Junior.
‘That’s what we set out to do and thank God that’s what we accomplished.’ And how. Smokey Robinson would go on to pen some 4000 songs in a 50 year career, be they for Mary Wells, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, his own doo wop/soul straddling, chart-hogging outfit The Miracles or his subsequent solo career. Having been awarded every accolade going and now in the golden years of sponsored soul food companies and American Idol, the affable Mr Robinson is still happy to be doing what he loves most, making music.
‘My most exciting time is right now, this exact moment, as we speak,’ replies America’s Greatest Living Poet (a title bestowed by none other than Bob Dylan) when asked how this all compares with life at the top in the 60s.
‘Let me tell you why. I’ve been doing this since before you were born; next year I will have been doing this for 50 years man. You are interviewing me today, and you are interested in what I’m doing; me coming to Scotland, me still performing, me still recording, me still being on TV. You’re interested in those things and I’ve been doing it for that long. So this is now very wonderful to me, this exact moment, because I’m still somebody that you would be interested in talking to.’
The Poet Laureate of Love’s canon boasts heart-stoppers like ‘Tears of a Clown’ and ‘Tracks of my Tears’ and his current lust for life extends to a similar enthusiasm for his live appearances, warranting that this upcoming show will be no lacklustre retrospective of what are unquestionable masterpieces.
‘A Smokey Robinson show entails everything,’ enthuses Robinson, a bold statement conveyed with not so much as an ounce of bravado.
‘I sing all the old stuff, all the new stuff, all the in-between stuff. It’s a party, and that’s what it entails, it entails: “You come on down and let’s have this party. No you’re not going to a concert tonight, you’re going to a party and that’s what we’re going to have.” And I’m not one of those artists who sings my old hits because I recognise that people love those songs and if I wasn’t going to sing them they were going to throw stuff. And I don’t try and separate myself from that because I realise and I recognise the fact that if it weren’t for those old songs there might not be any new songs. So you can expect everything, man.’
Expect great beats, great stories and great music - for everyone.
SECC, Glasgow, Tue 10 Jul