On this day in 1940, William “Smokey” Robinson is born in Detroit.
Reared on the city’s north end, he will attend Northern High School before meeting Berry Gordy, Jr. and joining Motown Records in 1959. There, Robinson will excel as a singer and songwriter.
As lead singer of the group the Miracles, he will record hits like “The Tears of a Clown” and “The Tracks of My Tears.
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As a producer and writer, he will lend his skills to Mary Wells’ “My Guy” and the Temptations’ “My Girl.”
In 1972, Robinson will become a solo artist and success will continue. He will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Ken Coleman, the author of On this Day: African-American Life in Detroit, is a native Detroiter and former news reporter. He served on the Detroit Charter Revision Commission. He lives in Detroit with his wife, Kim Trent, and their son, Jackson Coleman.