Have you ever wondered why soul legend Marvin Gaye's nickname at Motown was ‘Dad’? “It was because Marvin had bad feet and he used to walk like an old man," reveals Smokey Robinson in the latest MOJO. "So all the guys called him ‘Dad’.” Harsh but fair – he was never the greatest dancer. Robinson tells the anecdote in a six-page MOJO Interview extravaganza, starting with the tale of how his own nickname came about. He also discusses his upbringing and influences, his path to forming The Miracles, the group which defined his vocal sound, and meeting mentor Berry Gordy at the time the budding entrepreneur was forming Motown Records.
But his life as a hit songwriter and star wasn’t all fame, fun and glory. Robinson explains how the rigours of the road affected family life as his first wife, Miracle Claudette, suffered seven miscarriages, and there was further trauma when Gordy decided to move Motown to Los Angeles. In the ’80s, the death of his father and divorce from Claudette sent Smokey, perhaps the least likely candidate ever, into a downward spiral of addiction. “When you start to dibble and dabble in hard drugs, they don’t care who you are, they just overtake you.” But a new life and a new wife have seen this most cherished of soul-pop singer-songwriters re-emerge, as competitive as ever.
Everyone has a favourite Smokey Robinson song and that’s the premise of Smokey & Friends (Verve), the legendary songwriter/singer’s latest album, out on September 1, featuring duets with the likes of Elton John, Steve Tyler, John Legend, Cee-Lo Green, Mary J Blige, Sheryl Crow and James Taylor.
PHOTOS BY TOM OLDHAM
Watch Smokey on the Merv Griffin Show singing Tracks Of My Tears with just Marv Tarplin's guitar for accompaniment below. Stunning, beautiful.
And beneath that a knockout Just My Soul Responding on Soul Train.