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Smokey Robinson: The king of Motown comes to Tucson

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Smokey Robinson in concert

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Picture a white teenager living in riot-torn, segregated, Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. Montgomery was the place of Rosa Parks’ brave contribution to the bus revolution. It was the site of the Martin Luther King’s Selma March. The teenager, doing what most teenagers did at the time, turned on the radio with every opportunity in order to escape the strife of family and everyday life in Montgomery. The most popular songs heard on the radio were from Motown! Motown’s music interspersed with “white” music became color blind to the youth of the time. The social backdrop and the music began to feed off of each other. Motown became a progressive force in society.

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Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were major influences during these times. Motown had 90 number one hits on the pop charts. One source credits Smokey Robinson and the Miracles having 26 top forty hits. If Mr. Robinson wasn’t writing for himself, he wrote top hits for The Temptations, Marveletts, Martin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Mary Wells. Mr. Robinson served as vice-president of Motown records for many years. For more information on Smokey Robinson, please click here.

Smokey Robinson stepped out on stage at AVA Amphitheater in Tucson and his 74 years were more youthful than could have been imagined. He was dressed in a bright red silk jacket and matching leather trousers. This was probably not the coolest attire for Tucson’s 95-degree outdoor amphitheater, but no one heard him complain. The show was an example of symbiosis between Mr. Robinson and his audience. The energy he felt from the crowd got transferred back to him. The audience was up on their feet and singing from the start of the set.

Smokey Robinson’s promise to the crowd was to have a good time, to be intimate, to be close, to feel and to boogie! He dubbed the crowd as the AVA choir. The banter between him and the background singers was whether the “choir” sang harmony and in sections. He introduced the band as his family. He told stories about the old days, too, including Stevie Wonder presenting him with the idea for "Tears of a Clown" at a Motown Christmas party and then offered to drive Robinson home so he could work on it right away. “He drives much too fast! Sometimes while texting!” Robinson laughed hard with the audience while he told the story.

Mr. Robinson’s voice is as magnificent as it was in his youth. He gave a good array of the old hits, but there is no way he could sing them all. His passion was aptly demonstrated with the more current music, “That Place.” “Love Bath” and “Just To See Her.” “Tracks Of My Tears” garnered the most and the loudest audience participation of the show. The show finale of “Crusin’ ” consisted of Robinson bringing two audience members on the stage to help conduct the “choir.” It was a lot of fun for all. For a more complete set list, click here.

After fifty years, Smokey Robinson’s music is still relevant today. He probably is unaware of just how huge his musical influence was to society during the civil rights movement. If he entertains in your area, don’t miss the opportunity to see this legend perform!

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