Smokey Robinson facts: Songs, age, children of the Miracles leader and Motown legend

21 March 2022, 10:40 | Updated: 11 October 2023, 14:00

Smokey Robinson
Smokey Robinson. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Smokey Robinson is without doubt one of the most successful and talented songwriters of all time.

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From his time as leader of The Miracles, to his solo career and his songwriting powers at Motown, there really is only one Smokey.

To celebrate a true music legend, let's take a look back at his amazing life and career.

  1. Who is Smokey Robinson?

    Smokey Robinson performing in 2018
    Smokey Robinson performing in 2018. Picture: Getty

    Smokey Robinson is an American singer, songwriter, producer, and former record executive.

    He was the founder and frontman of Motown group the Miracles, and led the group from its 1955 beginnings as 'the Five Chimes' until 1972.

    He then retired from the group to focus on his role as Motown's vice president, but returned as a solo artist a year later.

    Following the sale of Motown in 1988, Smokey 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.

  2. What are Smokey's most famous songs?

    Smokey Robinson - Being With You (Official Video)

    Among his work with the Miracles and his solo career, his most famous songs include:

    - Shop Around

    - I Second That Emotion

    - You've Really Got a Hold on Me

    - The Tracks of My Tears

    - Tears of a Clown

    - Cruisin'

    - Being With You

    He has also written for many other artists, including:

    - Mary Wells - 'My Guy'

    - The Temptations - 'My Girl'

    - Marvin Gaye - 'Ain't That Peculiar'

    - The Jackson 5 - 'Who's Loving You'

  3. Is Smokey Robinson married?

    Smokey and Claudette Robinson
    Smokey and Claudette Robinson. Picture: Getty

    Smokey married his fellow Miracles member Claudette Rogers in 1959.

    They eventually divorced in 1986, after it was discovered that he had fathered a child with another woman.

    He is now married to Frances Gladney, after their wedding in May 2002.

  4. How many children does he have?

    Smokey had two children with Claudette: son Berry Robinson (born 1968), named after Motown's founder Berry Gordy, and daughter Tamla Robinson (born 1971), named after the original Tamla label set up by Gordy.

    He had another son, Trey (born 1984), with another woman, during his marriage to Claudette.

  5. How did he get his Smokey nickname?

    Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - Tears Of A Clown (1967)

    In 2012, Smokey explained: "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."

  6. How old is Smokey Robinson?

    Smokey Robinson was born on February 19, 1940. He celebrated his 82nd birthday in 2022.

    He was born to an African-American father and a mother of African-American and French ancestry, into a poor family in Detroit, Michigan, United States.