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  • Writer's picturePenny Neef

Smokey Robinson – Music to Soothe Your Soul

Words by Penny Neef. Image courtesy of the Virginia Arts Festival.

I was born in Detroit, and I am very old. Motown was the soundtrack of my teens. For most people, the music from your teenage years triggers the flashback memories that take you back to a time when you were old enough to be independent, but young enough to be carefree. It’s “your” music.

I am beyond excited that someone even older than me, also from Detroit, and one of the founding fathers of Motown Records, aka Hitsville U.S.A., will be performing at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk this Sunday, May 21 as part of Virginia Arts Festival.

That someone is the great singer, songwriter, and producer, Smokey Robinson.

I started listening to WKNR, Keener 13 am radio, while I did my homework somewhere around 1960. By then, Barry Gordy had formed Motown Records. In 1960, Gordy had Motown’s first million selling record, “Stay Around”, written and produced by Smokey Robinson and sung by Robinson’s group, the Miracles, with Robinson as lead singer.

The hits just kept coming out of Hitsville. For the next ten years, through my junior high and high school years, Robinson wrote, produced and sang lead on 26 Top 40 hits, like “You’ve Really Got Ahold on Me” and “Second That Emotion”. He also wrote and produced for many other iconic Motown artists. He wrote and produced “My Guy” for Mary Wells and “Since I Left My Baby” for the Temptations. He wrote and produced huge hits for the Four Tops, Brenda Holloway, the Marvelettes and Marvin Gaye.

There were dozens of hits from Motown every year of my teenage years. They wormed their way into my mind from that tiny radio I had sitting on the shelf above my tiny desk in my tiny bedroom I shared with my baby sister. Motown music soothed my teenage soul. It still works its magic on me.

By 1969, Robinson was ready to retire from performing. He wanted to focus on his new career as Vice President of Motown. That didn’t last long, although he continued being VP of Motown until it was sold off in 1988. He wrote, produced and sang hit after hit as a solo artist. Fast forward to today. At 83 years old, Robinson has just released his first studio album since 2009. It’s entitled “Gasms”, which makes me think that at 83 years old, Robinson is still writing and singing about love, lust and soul.

At the risk of sounding old, Smokey Robinson won’t be touring and singing live much longer. This is a performance you don’t want to miss. I promise it will soothe your soul.

For more information and to purchase tickets - they are still available – go to

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