The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "The Tracks of My Tears"

Tuesday, February 19: 2 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
1987 Hall of Fame Inductee Smokey Robinson

Born on February 19, 1940,  Smokey Robinson is among the most enduring songwriters of the 1960s. He also produced great records, notably by his own group, 2012 Hall of Fame Inductees the Miracles, and by the Temptations, Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye. Finally, Robinson was a great performer, the longest-lasting aspect of his career. But performing was Robinson's least predictable talent. He couldn't really be called a soul singer. Jackie Wilson influenced every first-generation male Motown singer, but even at the Miracles' most raucous, Robinson was no belter like Wilson. His singing bore traces of doo-wop and 1950s R&B, but no gospel. He was the most controlled of the great soulsters, at his best as an unruffled ballad singer – Motown's answer to Bing Crosby, or at least Billy Eckstine. "The Tracks Of My Tears" may be Robinson's greatest record. Without disparaging his beautifully disciplined voice, its power comes from elements in the arrangement:  huge drums, a lovely guitar line and sharp horns. Then there are the lyrics, with their irresistible rhymes. "My smile is my makeup I wear since my breakup with you" is tremendous not because it's profound, but because it says something so simple profoundly. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles are among the artists featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland's Cities and Sounds exhibit, in the section highlighting Detroit during the Motown era from 1962 to 1971.

WATCH: Smokey Robinson discusses life with the Miracles and why they deserved to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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