Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

  • R&B vocal group formed in 1955 from Detroit Michigan. The classic lineup was vocalists Smokey Robinson, Ronnie White, Pete Moore, Bobby Rogers, Claudette Robinson (Smokey’s wife) and guitarist Marv Tarplin. All members contributed to songwriting. Moore was the vocal arranger for their hits.
  • Robinson, Moore and White, school mates in Detroit, started singing at the age of 11. They formed a group with 2 other friends, calling themselves The Chimes, singing songs similar to other R&B vocal groups that were popular at that time. At 15, the other 2 friends left, and they were replaced by Bobby Rogers and his cousin Sonny. They changed the name of the group to The Matadors. By 1957, Sonny was drafted and left to join the Army, and he was replaced by his sister Claudette. Smokey and Claudette were married 2 years later.
  • The group auditioned for 3 members of a national record label in 1957 – one of the members was a staff songwriter named Barry Gordy. The other executives were not impressed, but Gordy liked their sound, and was impressed with the many songs that Robinson had written. Gordy recorded their first song in January 1958, Got A Job (an answer to the popular 1957 song Get A Job). Gordy found a label that was willing to release the single. Prior to that, the group changed its name again, to The Miracles. Gordy made just over $3 for his efforts, and Robinson encouraged him to form his own record label. Gordy agreed, forming Tamla Records in 1959, which became Motown Records several months later.
  • The Miracles began to record under the Tamla label. Their first song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 was Bad Girl, which made it to #93. After a poor performance at the Apollo Theater, Robinson recruited Tarplin to the group to play guitars, and the classic Miracles group was complete. By 1961, they released their first album, called Hi…We’re The Miracles. The single Shop Around became their first smash hit, reaching #2 on the Hot 100, and #1 on the R&B chart. It was Motown Records’ first million-seller, and it is #500 on Rolling Stones’ Greatest 500 Songs list.
  • Between 1960 and 1966, 16 more singles charted in the top 20 of the R&B chart, with You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me topping the chart, and Mickey’s Monkey making the top 10 of the Hot 100 chart. Other notable songs were Ooh Baby Baby (which has been covered over 20 times by other artists, with Linda Ronstadt’s 1978 version reaching #7 on the Hot 100 – the song is #266 on Rolling Stones’ GOAT list) and The Tracks of My Tears (#50 on the list, and a Grammy Hall of Fame song).
  • As The Miracles were the first Motown group, their sound became synonymous with the Motown sound. The many Motown artists that followed had The Miracles as their influence. The group’s live performances were highly entertaining, and they soon became known as “The Showstoppers.”
  • In 1967, they began to release singles using the name “Smokey Robinson and the Miracles,” highlighting Robinson’s role as the lead singer. Thirteen albums were identified this way, as well as 20 singles. In 1967, they had a huge hit I Second That Emotion, and in 1970, they scored their only Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit with The Tears of a Clown. Later that year, they were given their own television special.
  • Robinson wanted to move to work as an executive at Motown Records and to spend time with family. In 1972, he retired from the group. He was replaced by Billy Griffin, who auditioned with Motown and won the job as Robinson’s replacement. With Griffin as frontman, the group released 7 albums as The Miracles between 1973 and 1978. Two songs – Do It Baby and Love Machine – managed to break into the top 20, with Love Machine, a disco song, reaching #1 and actually becoming their group’s best selling single of all time. By 1978, Tarplin was long gone, Moore retired, and Griffin decided to focus on solo work, and the group was disbanded.
  • In 1980, White and Rogers reformed the group, calling themselves The New Miracles. They lasted 3 years. In 1993, White and Rogers reformed the group yet again, and The Miracles continued to perform until 2011. At that point, only Rogers remained as an original member (his sister Claudette Robinson rejoined in 2005 and performed until 2011 also).
  • Robinson enjoyed a successful solo career after his time with The Miracles. He released 25 albums from 1973 to 2014, with 15 top 10 R&B hits, and 2 songs that broke into the top 5 of the Hot 100 – Crusin’ in 1979 and Being With You in 1981.
  • Their introduction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame came with controversy. In 1987, Smokey Robinson was inducted into the Hall, but the other members of The Miracles were snubbed. Finally, 25 years later, the remaining members were inducted retroactively to 1987.
  • Other notable achievements – The Miracles are #32 on Rolling Stones’ list of the Greatest Artists of All Time (the highest ranking Motown group); their 4 songs in the Grammy Hall of Fame are the most of any Motown group; The Tracks of My Tears has been recognized by the Library of Congress as a song on the National Recording Registry; and they had over 50 charted hits.
  • The original sound of Motown is The Miracles. They put the Motown music genre on the map. Their singing and songs are absolute excellence. Give a listen to their most renowned song The Tracks of My TearsSmokey Robinson’s voice is amazing! Love the old school doo-wop back-up singers, with everyone in white suits.

2 thoughts on “Smokey Robinson and the Miracles”

  1. I grew up listening to the Miracles in the 1960’s. I certainly admired their singing, and especially that of Smokey Robinson. As much as I admired their singing, Mr. Robinson and company demonstrated that their supreme gift was in writing. The poetic nuance almost supernatural. The turn of well known phrases into poetic gold in nothing less than miraculous.

  2. Greatest group to EVER come out of Motown….BAR NONE !!

    Some Motown groups could SING, but couldn’t DANCE.
    Other Motown Groups could DANCE, but were just SO-SO SINGERS .
    THE MIRACLES were the ONLY Motown Group that were THE COMPLETE PACKAGE. They could DO IT ALL
    THE MIRACLES also have MORE SONGS inducted into The Grammy Hall of Fame than ANY other Motown group.
    And, if THAT weren’t enough, THE MIRACLES are the MOST-COVERED and MOST-SAMPLED MOTOWN GROUP (and Motown Act OVERALL) of ALL TIME !!!

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