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Smokey Robinson named next recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song

7/8/2016, 6 a.m.
Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao announced that Smokey Robinson is the next recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin ...
Music icon Smokey Robinson was named the next recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. He will receive the prize in November in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy Photo/Smokey Robinson)

Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao announced that Smokey Robinson is the next recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

A rhythm and blues icon whose career has spanned more than 50 years, Robinson is considered the poet laureate of soul. His velvet falsetto and incomparable mastery of lyrical verse have created a tapestry of hits that have transcended generations and become a mainstay in American pop music. As a producer, record executive and visionary, Robinson helped lead a musical revolution called the Motown sound.

Robinson will receive the prize in November in Washington, D.C. The Gershwin Prize honors a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations. Previous recipients are Paul Simon; Stevie Wonder; Sir Paul McCartney; songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David; Carole King; Billy Joel; and Willie Nelson.

“As a singer, songwriter, producer and record executive, Smokey Robinson is a musical legend,” said Acting Librarian of Congress David S. Mao. “His rich melodies are works of art— enduring, meaningful and powerful. And he is a master at crafting lyrics that speak to the heart and soul, expressing ordinary themes in an extraordinary way. It is that quality in his music that makes him one of the greatest poetic songwriters of our time.”

“It gives me such joy and gratitude to be included among the past recipients of this most prestigious songwriting award,” Robinson said.

The Grammy Award winner has released dozens of Top-40 hits and added more than 4,000 songs to his legacy songbook. His music reads like a playlist of Motown’s greatest hits—“Mickey’s Monkey” (1963), “Going to a Go-Go” (1966), “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (1963), “Ooo Baby Baby” (1965), “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965), “More Love” (1967), “I Second That Emotion” (1967), “Baby, Baby Don’t Cry” (1969), “The Tears of a Clown” (co-written with Stevie Wonder, 1970), “Cruisin’” (1979), “Being With You” (1981), “Just to See Her” and “One Heartbeat” (1987).

“The Tracks of My Tears,” was named to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2007 as one of the nation’s culturally, historically or aesthetically significant sound recordings.

Producer and songwriter Robinson was the creative force behind many Motown classics. “My Girl,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “Get Ready,” “Since I Lost My Baby,” “Ain’t That Peculiar,” “My Guy,” “You Beat Me to the Punch” and “Don’t Mess with Bill” are among the many hit songs that Robinson wrote for other Motown artists. He has crafted lyrics for Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, Brenda Holloway, The Marvelettes, The Temptations and many others. His music influenced The Beatles—who recorded Robinson and the Miracles’ “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” in 1963—The Rolling Stones (“Going To A Go-Go”); Michael Jackson (“Who’s Loving You”) and The Supremes (“I Second That Emotion”).

Born in Detroit in 1940, Robinson founded the Matadors in 1954 when he was in high school. Three years later the group added a female voice and became The Miracles. Berry Gordy’s first vocal group, The Miracles released the single “Shop Around” in 1960, which became Motown’s first million-selling hit.