Tunes Du Jour Presents Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson is one of the most influential and beloved figures in the history of American music. He is not only a legendary singer, songwriter, and producer, but also a humanitarian who has used his fame and fortune to support various causes.

William “Smokey” Robinson was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1940. He grew up in a musical environment, listening to the likes of Nolan Strong, Hank Ballard, and Jackie Wilson. He formed his first vocal group, the Five Chimes, while in high school, and later changed their name to the Miracles. He met Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown Records, in 1957, and became one of his first artists and collaborators. He also suggested the name Motown, in honor of the Motor City.

The Miracles gave Motown its first number one hit with “Shop Around” in 1960, and went on to score many more classics, such as “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “I Second That Emotion,” and “The Tears of a Clown.” Smokey Robinson was the lead singer and the main songwriter of the group, as well as a prolific producer for other Motown acts, such as Mary Wells, the Temptations, the Supremes, and the Marvelettes. He wrote and produced some of the most iconic songs of the Motown era, such as “My Guy,” “My Girl,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” and “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game.”

Smokey Robinson left the Miracles in 1972 to pursue a solo career, and continued to create hits, such as “Quiet Storm,” “Cruisin’”, “Being with You,” and “One Heartbeat.” He also became the vice president of Motown, and helped to nurture the careers of new artists, such as Lionel Richie, Rick James, and Teena Marie. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a solo artist and as a member of the Miracles. He also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for his contributions to popular music.

Smokey Robinson has written and sung some of the most romantic songs ever. He has also shown his love for humanity by supporting various charities and causes, such as the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation, the Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation, UNICEF, and the United Negro College Fund. He has also invested in his hometown of Detroit by donating to the Motown Museum and supporting arts and music programs for young people.

Smokey Robinson is a living legend who has enriched our lives with his music and his love. He is a role model for aspiring artists and a source of inspiration for generations of fans. He is a treasure of American culture and a gift to the world. Let us celebrate his legacy by listening to thirty of his best songs as a vocalist, which are featured in the playlist below. Enjoy!

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 2-2-24

The Honey Cone was the first act signed to Hot Wax Records, a label started in 1968 by Eddie and Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, who previously were staff writers and producers at Motown Records and in that role wrote twelve number one singles between 1962 and 1967, two performed by The Four Tops and the other ten by The Supremes, with lead vocals by Diana Ross, who would soon leave the trio and be replaced by Jean Terrell in 1970, with Terrell being replaced in 1973 by Scherrie Payne, who before then was the singer in a group called Glass House, also signed to Hot Wax Records, who recorded “Want Ads” prior to The Honey Cone, but neither Scherrie nor the track’s producer, Greg Perry, liked their version, leading Scherrie to re-record the song with her sister Freda, who had a number 3 record in 1970 with “Band of Gold,” a song co-penned by Holland-Dozier-Holland under assumed names, but the sisters’ version of “Want Ads” was also discarded, which then led Scherrie to suggest to Perry that he try the song again with Edna Wright singing, Wright being the lead singer for The Honey Cone and the sister of Darlene Wright, the singer for the group The Blossoms, and while you may not recognize the names Darlene Wright or The Blossoms, you may know their music, for producer Phil Spector renamed Darlene Wright Darlene Love (without her knowledge) and released records by The Blossoms under the name The Crystals, who hit number 1 with “He’s a Rebel,” and should not be but will be confused with another group called The Crystals, also produced by Phil Spector at the same time he was working with Wright/Love and The Blossoms, but let’s get back to Edna Wright, who recorded “Want Ads” with backing vocals by the other two members of The Honey Cone, Shellie Clark, who a couple of years earlier was singing backup for Ike and Tina Turner, and Carolyn Willis, who toured as a member of Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, a group whose records were produced by Phil Spector and featured vocals from Darlene Wright/Love. In June of 1971 The Honey Cone took “Want Ads” to number 1. (This paragraph is pulled from my long-awaited (by me, anyway) book, which I’m trying to get out this year.) 

The late Edna Wright of The Honey Cone was born on this date in 1945. A couple of the group’s best-known songs, including “Want Ads,” are on today’s playlist.

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Tunes Du Jour Presents Covers of Show Tunes

The theme of today’s playlist is cover versions of songs that originated in stage musicals. Here are the songs listed with the shows that introduced them:

  • Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin – From The Threepenny Opera (1928)
  • Till There Was You by The Beatles – From The Music Man (1957)
  • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by The Platters – From Roberta (1933)
  • Little Girl Blue by Nina Simone – From Jumbo (1935)
  • You’ll Never Walk Alone by Gerry & The Pacemakers – From Carousel (1945)
  • I Am What I Am by Gloria Gaynor – From La Cage aux Folles (1983)
  • On The Street Where You Live by Vic Damone – From My Fair Lady (1956)
  • Everything’s Coming Up Roses by The Replacements – From Gypsy (1959)
  • Send In The Clowns by Judy Collins – From A Little Night Music (1973)
  • I Don’t Know How to Love Him by Helen Reddy – From Jesus Christ Superstar (1970)
  • Hair by The Cowsills – From Hair (1967)
  • Put On A Happy Face by Diana Ross & The Supremes – From Bye Bye Birdie (1960)
  • Losing My Mind by Liza Minnelli – From Follies (1971)
  • Tomorrow by Grace Jones – From Annie (1977)
  • My Favorite Things by John Coltrane – From The Sound of Music (1959)
  • Well Did You Evah? by Debbie Harry & Iggy Pop – From DuBarry Was a Lady (1939)
  • The Man I Love by Kate Bush – From Lady, Be Good! (1924)
  • If My Friends Could See Me Now by Linda Clifford – From Sweet Charity (1966)
  • Summertime by Big Brother & The Holding Company – From Porgy and Bess (1935)
  • Cabaret by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – From Cabaret (1966)
  • I Get A Kick Out Of You by Frank Sinatra – From Anything Goes (1934)
  • Don’t Cry For Me Argentina by Festival – From Evita (1978)
  • Somewhere by Pet Shop Boys – From West Side Story (1957)
  • The Lady is a Tramp by Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – From Babes in Arms (1937)
  • I’ll Never Fall In Love Again by Dionne Warwick – From Promises, Promises (1968)
  • I Love Paris by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – From Can-Can (1953)
  • Night + Day by U2 – From Gay Divorce (1932)
  • There Are Worse Things I Could Do by Alison Moyet – From Grease (1971)
  • Corner of the Sky by The Jackson 5 – From Pippin (1972)
  • I Enjoy Being a Girl by Phranc – From Flower Drum Song (1958)

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 12-17-23

Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong collaborated to write several hits for The Temptations, among them “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone,” “I Can’t Get Next To You,” “Psychedelic Shack,” “Ball Of Confusion,” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me).” The latter was inspired by Strong’s crush on a woman who didn’t know he existed. It became The Temptations’ third number one single on the Hot 100. 

Lead vocalist on “Just My Imagination,” the late Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations was born on this date in 1939.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 11-26-23

Superstar producer Phil Spector went to see Ike Turner. He told Ike that he wanted to record a song with Tina that would become a number one smash on the pop charts and break them bigger. However, Ike could have nothing to do with the recording. Ike agreed, provided his name was still on the record label, which led to the awkwardly phrased Ike & Tina Turner featuring Tina. The track, “River Deep—Mountain High,” was recorded over five sessions. At various times during the recordings, studio guests included Mick Jagger, Brian Wilson, and Dennis Hopper. After subjecting Tina to take after take, Spector finally got what he wanted. He knew he had a smash on his hands.

In the US, the single debuted on the Hot 100 at number 98. The following week it was up to number 94. The next week, number 93. Then number 88. And that was that. Its chart run was over. In the UK the record went to number 2, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy Spector, who retreated from music production for the next couple of years.  

The late great Tina Turner was born on this date in 1939. Lots of Tina on today’s playlist.

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