Smokey Robinson is well known for his signature falsetto voice and poetic songwriting. This alone has him etched in the white halls of musical history.
His impressive musical career has spanned decades, and his net worth has attested to his lifelong appeal and unique talent. But how did this young dude from Detroit ascend to such impressive heights?
Smokey Robinson’s Early Life
William “Smokey” Robinson Jr. was born on the 19th of February 1940. He is an American R&B and soul singer, record producer, songwriter, and former record executive of The Miracles.
He was the founder of the famous Motown vocal group the Miracles, for which he was the chief songwriter and producer. He led the group from the early beginnings in 1955, when they were initially called The Five Chimes.
In 1972, he publically announced his retirement from the group to focus more on his role as the vice president of Motown Records. Smokey later returned to the music industry as a solo artist the following year. He officially left Motown in 1999.
1987, Smokey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was then awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize in 2016 for his contributions to popular music in his lifetime.
He has a double Hollywood Walk of Fame Induction, both as a solo artist and as a member of The Miracles in 1983 and 2009. Also, he was inducted into the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame in 2022.
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Smokey Robinson’s Early Start in Music
William Robinson Jr. is an African-American and has an African-American father and a mother of both African-American and French descent. He grew up in a poor family in the North End of Detroit, Michigan.
Robinson’s ancestry can be partly traced to Nigeria, Scandinavia, Portugal, and Cherokee. His favorite uncle Claude, mentor and godfather, called him “Smokey Joe” when he was a little boy.
He went to the Northern High School, where, like most other kids, he was above average in his academics and a very good athlete. But, his main interest was music.
Soon, he formed a doo-wop music group he named the Five Chimes. He and his friend, Aretha Franklin, lived a few houses from each other in Belmont.
In an interview, Smokey said he’d known Franklin since she was about five years old when he’d overheard her play the piano. He said she would often play it when he had come over to play with her older brother Cecil after her family initially moved to Detroit.
Smokey’s interest in music began in his childhood days during the days he’d heard Nolan Strong & the Diablos and Billy Ward and his Dominoes on the radio.
He mentioned Barrett Strong, a Detroit native, as a strong vocal influence for him back then. In 1955, he formed the first group, The Five Chimes, with his childhood friend Ronald White and classmate Pete Moore.
Two years later, the trio renamed the group to the Matadors and signed in Bobby Rogers. He included another member, Emerson ‘Sonny’ Rogers, Bobby Rogers’ cousin, who he replaced with his sister, Claudette Rogers.
He included Marv Tarplin as the group’s guitarist, who joined them sometime in 1958. Smokey’s ‘Matadors’ began to tour places in Detroit immediately after. Eventually, they changed their name to The Miracles.
His Solo Career
After retiring for a year, Smokey announced his comeback by releasing the Smokey album in 1973. The album included the Miracles tribute song, “Sweet Harmony,” and the then-hit ballad “Baby Come Close.”
Smokey’s second album, Pure Smokey, was dropped in 1974, but the album failed to produce the intended hits. Smokey struggled to compete with his former collaborators like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
Smokey Robinson’s Personal Life
Robinson married Claudette Rogers in 1959. She was a fellow Miracles member, and the couple had two children: a son, Berry Robinson, who was born in 1968), and a daughter, Tamla Robinson, born in 1971.
Robinson also had a son named Trey, who was born in 1984 to another woman he had an affair with during his marriage to Claudette. Later, Robinson admitted having a child with another woman other than Claudette.
He then went on and filed for divorce, which was finalized in 1986. The Robinsons had also separated in 1974. During that separation, Smokey cheated again and then made a song about it called “The Agony & The Ecstasy.”
He didn’t stop there, either. Smokey also had an affair with Diana Ross. According to him, he said Diana ended it because she felt ‘uncomfortable’ because she was close friends with Claudette, whom Smokey said he still loved.
Robinson later married another woman, Frances Gladney, in May 2002. They have a home in Pittsburgh, which they use as a winery.
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Robinson is not a lover of red meat, and he has not eaten it since 1972. Sources say he practices Transcendental Meditation.
Smokey Robinson’s Net Worth
The American R&B and pop singer, songwriter, record producer, and former record executive of The Miracles, Smokey Robinson, has a net worth of $150 million.
Smokey has been credited with pioneering the famous Motown sound that became incredibly popular from the early 50s to the 70s. Back then, he was an integral part of the vocal group, which saw great success and fame throughout the Motown era.
When he finally left the group, Robinson pursued a successful solo career. He was also the vice president of Motown Records, and in 1987, Smokey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Smokey has amassed this net worth due to his work and contribution to the music industry. He’s been active in the music industry for almost 50 years, and he has earned over $160 million just from music alone.
Smokey gets almost $ 5 million every year from the royalties of the music he created throughout these years and also from the contribution he’s added to the music industry.
Smokey Robinson’s Investment in Real Estate
Robinson sold his Encino, Los Angeles estate for $2.3 million in 2002. This luxurious was built in 1912, with unique features of 10,600 square feet of living space and an 800-square-foot private deck.
The property sits on a massive 1.5 acres of land, which includes luxurious, English-style gardens. The iconic mansion changed hands in 2017 when he sold it for $8.3 million.
In 2014, Smokey sold another Californian mansion for $7.99 million. This second property is in the affluent Chatsworth neighborhood of Los Angeles, where several other famous celebrities live.
The 9,075-square-foot property features a separate 2,000-square-foot guest house. In 2005, Smokey listed the residence for $10.5 million but re-listed it again for $10 million in 2007 after he’d found it difficult to find a buyer. In 2014, the $7.99 million price represents a heavy discount.
Smokey Inks Music Licensing Deal
In 2018, Smokey Robinson, at the Senate House, called for the passage of music licensing legislation to extend copyright protection to sound recordings made before 1972. This is an issue he said was “a livelihood thing” for many older artists who no longer perform.
He told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, “It is not just about music, it is about lives. They could really use that money.”
Smokey was the latest music legend to visit Capitol Hill in order to urge the passage of the Music Modernization Act. This is a set of changes in the law that is designed to streamline music licensing and also close a loophole in copyright law.
Congress extended copyright protection to sound recordings in the early 1970s, but it became effective as of Feb. 15, 1972.
The Motown legend will go to a go-go after he signed a deal with indie music publisher Primary Wave. This allows Primary Wave to exploit his name and likeness along with his legendary songs.
Smokey’s music rights had previously been affected during a battle with his ex-wife, Claudette, who claimed she was owed a 50 percent stake in all the assets in 2014. But that case was soon settled.
The 76-year-old singer, the leader of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, only recently won the ability to reaffirm complete and utter ownership over his pre-1976 songs through the Copyright Act.
Smokey Robinson Winery
Smokey Robinson is indeed a Legend.
He rose to stardom in the 1960s as the founder of the Miracles. He wrote and recorded hits songs such as “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me,” “Shop Around,” “My Girl,” “Tears of a Clown,” “I Second That Emotion,” and “Cruisin,” to name a few.
In 2017, Smokey decided to bring the same passion he had for his music into the wine world, which immediately garnered impressive positive feedback and love.
In August 2018, Smokey Robinson Wines released its “Artist Song Series Brand.” A brand that produces four wines from Santa Barbara, CA. These beautiful wines, proudly boasting the names of some of Smokey’s most famous hit songs, include the “My Girl” Chardonnay, the “Being with You” Pinot Noir, the “Second That Emotion” Cabernet and the “Crusin” Bordeaux Blend.
A glass of Smokey Robinson Cabernet Sauvignon greets you with a strong, spicy bouquet aroma. The aroma is backed by a flavor so smooth that it tastes and is as sweet as the vocals in his hit song, “Cruisin’,” This comes without the expected tang of the normal dry red wine.
The wine is made from the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon grapes blended by Enginehouse 25 Wines. Smokey keeps his unfiltered red wine in oak barrels to give it a unique jammy taste.
Smokey Robinson Wines are available for purchase online at www.SmokeyRobinsonWines.com. You can find these lovely wines at 23rd & Vine, 2333 E Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203.
Awards and Accolades
Smokey has achieved several awards in his life since he began The Miracles, here are a few of them;
- Smokey was awarded an individual star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 22, 1983.
- 1987 Robinson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
- Robinson’s single “Just to See Her” from the ‘One Heartbeat’ album was awarded Grammy Award for Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1988.
- In 1989, he was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.
- In 1993 Robinson was awarded a medal at the National Medal of Arts.
- He also won the Heritage Award at the Soul Train Music Awards.
- Robinson was voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame in 2005.
- Howard University conferred on Robinson the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa, at its 138th Commencement Convocation in May 2006.
- In December 2006, Robinson was among five others to receive the Kennedy Center honoree, along with Dolly Parton, Zubin Mehta, Steven Spielberg, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
- On March 20, 2009, the Miracles were honored as a group with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star.