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Sun, 02.18.1940

Smokey Robinson, Singer, Songwriter, and Producer born

Smokey Robinson

*Smokey Robinson was born on this date in 1940. He is a Black singer, songwriter, record producer, and former executive director.

William Robinson Jr. was born to an African American father and African American and French descent mother. His family lived in the North End area of Detroit, Michigan. Robinson's ancestry includes Nigerian, Scandinavian, Portuguese, and Cherokee. His uncle Claude gave him the nickname "Smokey Joe" as a child.

He attended Northern High School, where his main interest was music, and he formed a doo-wop group named the Five Chimes. At one point, he and Aretha Franklin lived several houses from each other on Belmont; he once said he'd known Franklin since she was about five, overhearing her play the piano when he had come to play with her older brother Cecil after her family first moved to Detroit. Robinson's interest in music started after hearing the groups on the radio as a child and said Barrett Strong, a Detroit native, was a strong vocal influence.

In 1955, he formed the first lineup of the Five Chimes with childhood friend Ronald White and classmate Pete Moore. Two years later, they became the Matadors and included Bobby Rogers. Another member, Emerson (Sonny) Rogers, Bobby Rogers' cousin, was replaced by his sister, Claudette Rogers. The Matadors began touring Detroit venues around this time. They later changed their name to the Miracles. Robinson married a fellow Miracles member, Claudette Rogers, in 1959. The couple had two children: a son, Berry Robinson (born 1968), named after Motown's first label founder Berry Gordy, and a daughter, Tamla Robinson (born 1971), named after the original "Tamla" label set up by Gordy that would eventually become Motown.

He was also the chief songwriter and producer. He led the group from its 1955 origins until 1972 when he announced his retirement from the group to focus on his role as Motown's vice president. Robinson has not eaten red meat since 1972. He practices Transcendental Meditation. His golden green eyes, he believes, were passed down from his French great-grandmother. Robinson returned to the music industry as a solo artist the following year. Robinson left Motown Records in 1990, following the sale of the company two years earlier. He also had a son named Trey (born in 1984) with another woman during his marriage to Claudette. They separated in 1974.

Robinson married Frances Gladney in 2002. They own a home in Pittsburgh and use it as a winery. Robinson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and was awarded the 2016 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for his lifetime contributions to popular music. In 2022, he was inducted into the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame.

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