An Evening With Smokey Robinson

An Evening With Smokey Robinson premiered Monday, February 1, 2010.

PBS Specials
Viewers get an insider's look at the life and career of Motown legend Smokey Robinson.

About the Program

An Evening With Smokey Robinson provides an inside look into the life and career of Motown legend Smokey Robinson. Taped in 2009 in front of a live theater audience at Northwestern University Law School's Thorne Auditorium, An Evening With Smokey Robinson features PBS-TV veteran journalist Gwen Ifill as the host and former Motown executive and film producer Suzanne de Passe as Mistress of Ceremonies. The program also features musical tributes from Grammy Award nominated artists such as Teena Marie, Howard Hewett and Musiq Soulchild.

Smokey Robinson, Howard Hewett, and Teena Marie perform "Crusin'" during the finale of An Evening With Smokey Robinson. Smokey Robinson transformed a generation of music with his smooth voice and creative songwriting. Robinson helped initiate the Motown musical dynasty with Berry Gordy, and he served as the lead singer for one of the label's first and most successful groups, The Miracles. Amazingly, Robinson gave Motown thirty-seven Top 40 hits with The Miracles and as a solo artist between 1967 and 1988 including "Shop Around," "Ooo Baby Baby," "I Second That Emotion," and "The Tears of a Clown." He also wrote hit songs for other Motown artists including The Supremes, The Temptations, The Marvelletes, Mary Wells, and Marvin Gaye.

Smokey talks of his early days growing up in Detroit in the same neighborhood as Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops and The Temptations . He explains his chance meeting with a young Berry Gordy when Robinson's group went to audition for Jackie Wilson's manager. In addition, he reveals the motivation behind many of his greatest hits. He speaks frankly about his struggle with drug addiction and how a friend helped him overcome it.

Robinson's career spans over fifty years. He also enjoyed a very successful solo career, landing a Grammy Award for the hit song "Just to See Her" in 1987. That same year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and twelve years later, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Robinson's legacy has influenced numerous R&B artists and his work laid the groundwork for the genre's success today. As an homage to Smokey's influence, the show includes five musical performances of his work. Teena Marie sings "Ooo Baby Baby." Musiq Soulchild brings his unique style to his interpretation of "The Tears of a Clown." Howard Hewett electrifies the crowd with "Being With You." And not to be outdone, Smokey Robinson joins in duringthe finale performances of "Cruisin'" and "Quiet Storm."

Gwen Ifill interviews Smokey Robinson as part of An Evening With Smokey Robinson.

This program was videotaped as part of the annual celebrity interview and fundraiser for The HistoryMakers, a 501(c)(3) Illinois, not-for-profit corporation. The HistoryMakers, the nation's largest African American video oral history archive, is committed to the development of a unique on-line archive of 5,000 first-person narratives of African-American HistoryMakers, both well known and unsung. When completed in 2015, the archive will represent the largest single one of its kind in the world (

An Evening With Smokey Robinson, a must-see event, is the 16th in this The HistoryMakers series.


For more information on An Evening With Smokey Robinson, visit The HistoryMakers' Web site at

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© 2010 The HistoryMakers. All Rights Reserved. Text and photos courtesy of The HistoryMakers.

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An Evening With Smokey Robinson

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