The Legend that is Smokey Robinson
William "Smokey Joe" Robinson played the Graton Casino in Rohnert Park on November 4. The venue holds 1508 people and I imagine Smokey could've played a larger venue and probably does. But I was grateful for this venue close to home and on the more intimate side in the way of its capacity. It was sold out and I imagine that the women in the audience may have been 'very heated' by the end of his spectacular performance!
Just after the show whilst thinking about writing this article, my first thought was, "The legend, Smokey Robinson....No words!" And that was it. This show actually left me speechless at first. I figure I'd add the photos and thats all I could conjure immediately following the show, as I was again gobsmacked at his stunning performance, beautiful voice, and piercing green eyes. But after some thought, of course I wanted to share more than, "No Words" so here goes...I'm going to put into words what I witnessed at this stellar performance by a lifetime icon in the music business.
Theres so much to write about this artist that is Smokey Robinson. He will be turning 83 in February of 2023, but the performer onstage was completely ageless. His songwriting talents are unlimited and beyond prolific. He has been everything in the music industry from the founder, songwriter and front man of The Miracles, to music producer and eventually after he retired from The Miracles in 1972, he became Motowns' Vice President. He then went onto a solo music career in 1973. And in 1990 he left Motown. Smokey Robinson has penned so many Motown hits between 1962 and 1966, there are almost too many to list. At least 25 in the top forty in those first few years! He has worked alongside and written songs for, many of the other legends like Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, Stevie Wonder, (who he refers to as, Stevie Wonder-ful!) And he's even worked with many non Motown icons, such as Elton John, James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt for an album he released in 2014 called, "Smokey and Friends". He wrote, so many hits, such as, Tears of a Clown, My Guy, The Way You Do The Things You Do, Get Ready, Tracks of My Tears, I'll Be Doggone, and many others.
Smokey originates from Detroit. He and Aretha Franklin grew up only a few doors away from each other. Smokey has claimed that he used to hear Arethas brother play piano and thats what first got him interested in music. Motown was also born in that very same neighborhood along with Berry Gordy. Gordy went on to cultivate the Motown sound and Smokey joined soon after. Robinson and Gordy were the two that really propelled Motown in those early days to super greatness.
Robinson has won so many awards and has numerous accolades that you can always check out, but I want to tell you about what I, and others experienced as a concert attendees. Many people have asked me how the show was, and is he really that good, even now as an 80+. The answer is YES YES YES, Smokey Robinson is truly a legend beyond most, even now!!! I didnt see him him perform back in the early days of Motown, but I have now seen him in concert twice and both times were stunning A+ performances. With a wit and charm that one sees rarely. And the sexual essence that rarely, if ever comes along. Smokey is the whole package!
The first time I saw a Smokey concert was about 7 or 8 years ago. I only attended because the radio station I was working at gave me tickets to go check it out. Honestly the venue was so close to my house that I thought, I'll stay for a song or two then I'll head home. Well how wrong I was!!! He was so spectacular and I didnt leave until well after the curtain went down. One of the most memorable shows ever. As was this recent one. It wasn't even about the professionalism or the pro players he is on stage with, which he is. All the players were super pro and polished. But it's about Smokey Robinson the man. I think the women in the audience will agree. I spoke to a few and they all said similar things. One of my friends, Misty Samler, was there with her husband. I spoke to Misty post show, and Misty said, "Smokey makes love to a womans' soul through his music. He owns the lost art of seduction. The bedroom eyes, the sexy grooves of desire, and smooth vocals that capture the essence of an intense love affair". I agree!!! She covered it! The other women I chatted with post show had similar descriptions. We were all left pretty 'weak at the knees' to be honest. Smokey and his 'sexual essence' is something wonderful to experience for sure. Its nothing to do with his obvious physical fitness, or gorgeous piercing green eyes...its all about the "smoking soul that lies within", exuded through his music. Combine these qualities with his smile, wit, charm, and pure joy coming through his seamless delivery of hits and his inner kindness and sexuality, equals a super talented human that seems to have it all. And, continuing his super talents for decades takes a boatload of talent. It all comes pouring out onstage, with no shame or ambiguity. Its out there for all to see. Authentic, vulnerable and bare. Adding his iconic voice, great sense of humour and calm demeanor, sends women into another realm. A few men that I spoke to that night didnt 'get it' but a couple men did, and were left in tears. Smokey sings from his soul to yours. Robinson is at the top of the music biz for a reason...his professionalism is perfection and his songs, voice, sexuality, humour and demeanor are simply the icing on a beautiful sexy delicious cake!
A friend of mine, Chris Tait, lived a half mile from where the Motown sound began in Detroit. He's a working musician and grew up in this area. He has been surrounded by the Motown influence throughout his life. And I imagine it's part of his love for music and maybe even a part of why he is in the music industry. I asked Chris what Motown means to the people of this area and he said, "Motown is something that's in the air here in Detroit, now and forever; It represents power and progress in pop music, and is the backbone and soundtrack to our city. Where the West Coast had the incredible sound of the Wrecking Crew, and New York had timeless songwriting with the Brill Building, Motown had the best of both with the instantly recognizable sound of the Funk Brothers, and songwriters like Smokey Robinson and Holland/Dozier/Holland. From Hall and Oates to Lizzo, Berry Gordy and the Motown Sound continue to influence artists from all around the world." Chris sent me a couple photos he took recently of the original Motown buliding, whilst walking by, only a half mile from his home. The pics show an event happening at the original location of the first place where Motown was born....a humble house in the neighborhood. Notice the street sign in the foreground, "Berry Gordy Blvd". I think thats pretty cool. Chris said, "The event was part of an expansion celebration - over the course of the next five years, they're adding a music school and using the back of the block to expand the museum." He added, "Motown is ingrained into everybody here in a different way. My Dad used to talk about getting package shows together for his student council at Eastern Michigan University. Like a couple grand for Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and the Four Tops on ONE BILL. Total madness, but so cool that they'd offer those deals for local universities in the 60s." Photos of the event at this little house in the hood were shot by Chris with his phone, and are pictured below in the gallery. I'm so grateful Chris shared this insight with me, and I have the privilege of sharing with you, The Music Soup readers! Please feel free to check out Chris Taits' music and recovery program at: https://passengerrecovery.com/resume/
Even though I was speechless directly post show, I have many more words for my deep admiration and adoration of the artist, the legend that is Smokey Robinson. I strongly suggest to anyone, get the full, Smokey experience...try to get to a live show. As I can only speak for me, I know, I'll forever remember the smokin hot, Smokey Experiences I have had, twice in my life. And I'm looking forward to the next time the Smokey Robinson show comes to town! I was hoping to photograph from the stage at Graton, but his security had me shooting from the FOH (front of house) which is the back of the venue at the sound board. I was the only photographer shooting the show, which I do not take lightly. I feel very honored and privileged for the live Smokey Robinson experience. After the first three songs that I was approved to shoot, I had to put my camera away and find a seat. I found a seat 8 rows from the stage, and enjoy the show I did! He played for just under two hours and had the stamina of an eighteen year old, and the sexual essence of no one else that I've seen live. I imagine the only other performers that may exude a similar 'essence' was perhaps Jim Morrison or Elvis Presely. But I was not old enough to ever see either live. He is most definitley alive and kicking and I hope he never stops touring! Cant wait till he returns!