Smooth and Smokey

The Motown label celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and one of its most crucial artists is still making beautiful music. Starting at the tender age of 20, Smokey Robinson primed the pumps of the once-unstoppable hit-making factory, scoring the company’s first number one R&B hit, “Shop Around,” in 1960 with his band, the Miracles. He went on to have several more hits and write timeless anthems for the likes of the Temptations, the Four Tops, and even Marvin Gaye. Robinson cemented his dedication to the label when he named his children Berry (a sweet tribute to founder Berry Gordy) and Tamla (also the name of Motown’s sister imprint). An oft-proclaimed influence on icons including the Beatles and Michael Jackson, Robinson’s gentle and subtle songs have spurred great legacies, particularly in the case of Jackson, for whom Robinson was an early mentor at Motown. The Beatles’ George Harrison made it even more overt when he wrote the song “Pure Smokey” for a solo album. With an arsenal of soul, gospel, and creative covers, Robinson is well armed for a rare San Francisco appearance.
Sat., March 13, 9 p.m., 2010

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