Why Doesn’t Smokey Robinson Get More Love?

He may not have the pop-culture cachet of Stevie and Aretha, but he’s earned it.

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Smokey Robinson: Elegance in eloquence (Photo: Motown Records)

Five Excellent Covers of Smokey Compositions by Non-Motown Artists

“Shop Around” Captain & Tennille

A massive hit for the husband and wife duo (number four, 1976) that was even bigger for Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (number two, 1960), becoming the first of the band’s many crossover hits when Smokey was barely out of his teens.

“Ooo Baby Baby” Linda Ronstadt

A Top 10 single from Ronstadt’s 1978 Living in the U.S.A. album, whose iconic cover photo of Ronstadt on roller skates, arms outstretched holding onto the walls, came about, she once told me, because she was a terrible skater who didn’t know how else to stop herself. The Miracles’ original recording of it peaked at number 16 in 1965.

“More Love” Kim Carnes

If you consider Carnes to be a one-top 10 hit wonder (via 1981’s number-one smash “Bette Davis Eyes”), think again. This number 10 single, a cover of a 1967 Miracles A-side, preceded her signature song by one year. Robinson loved Carnes’s remake so much that he wrote “Being with You” for her but was convinced to record it himself. Ironically, it ended up getting stuck at number two for three weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 behind Carnes’s “Bette Davis Eyes,” which spent nine non-consecutive weeks at the top.

“Who’s Lovin’ You” Terence Trent D’Arby

The 1960 classic that launched a million talent-show auditions (it was the B-side to The Miracles’ “Shop Around”), not to mention EnVogue’s 1990 breakthrough hit “Hold On.” Astonishingly, although it was the B-side of The Miracles hit and nine years later, the flipside of “I Want You Back,” The Jackson Five’s debut single and first number one, “Who’s Lovin’ You” has never gotten higher on its own than number 66 on Billboard’s Hot 100, a summit it achieved via Brenda & The Tabulations 1967 cover. Of all the covers I’ve heard, TTD’s, the closing track on his 1987 debut Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby, is my favorite.

“Cruisin’” D’Angelo

Years ago, I saw D’Angelo perform his 1995 cover of Smokey’s 1979 number-four single during an MTV Unplugged rehearsal, and I’m still not sure how I resisted the urge to rip off my clothes right in front of that stage.

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Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj

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