Smokey Robinson (born February 19, 1940) is an American singer, songwriter, record producer and former record executive….who was the founder and front man of the Motown vocal group The Miracles….for which he was also chief songwriter and producer….as Smokey led the group from its 1955 origins as “the Five Chimes” until 1972 when he announced a retirement from the group to focus on his role as Motown’s vice president.
Robinson returned to the music industry as a solo artist the following year. Following the sale of Motown Records in 1988….Robinson left the company in 1990. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987…..and was awarded the 2016 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for his lifetime contributions to popular music.
In 2012, Robinson explained how he got the name Smokey:
“My Uncle Claude was my favorite uncle, he was also my godfather. He and I were really, really close. He used to take me to see cowboy movies all the time when I was a little boy because I loved cowboy movies. He got a cowboy name for me, which was Smokey Joe. So from the time I was three years old if people asked me what my name was I didn’t tell them my name was William, I told them my name was Smokey Joe. That’s what everyone called me until I was about 12 and then I dropped the Joe part. I’ve heard that story about him giving it to me because I’m a light skinned Black man but that’s not true.”