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Smokey Robinson at Gershwin’s Piano

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This Friday (Feb. 10) PBS stations nationwide (9 pm Eastern – check your local listings) will share with America the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song tribute concert honoring Motown legend Smokey Robinson.

It was a great pleasure to host Smokey, Berry Gordy, family and friends at the Library the day before the concert was taped back in November. Library of Congress staff shared treasures from Motown and African-American music history, like maps from Detroit in the late fifties with handwritten notes by Alan Lomax, historic recordings of Jelly Roll Morton and the original copyright deposit of “I Cry”, a song he co-wrote with Gordy and his first copyright submission.

The highlight of the visit, for me, was to watch Smokey sit down at George Gershwin’s favorite piano – on permanent display in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building – and talk with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.

To say Dr. Hayden is a Smokey fan is an understatement, and she had a series of questions for the honoree, who tells her about Gershwin’s influence on his childhood, when he decided singing was his passion and what music he’s listening to now. He also opens up in an emotional moment about his relationship with Berry Gordy and Gordy’s impact on his life.

We’ve been looking forward to sharing this touching conversation with you ahead of Friday’s broadcast.

I hope you enjoy it!

Comments (10)

  1. He uses an ‘e’ in Berry, not Barry.

    • Oh my, you are correct! Thanks for the catch.

  2. I grew up on Detroit’s north end. I would see Smokey around the neighborhood from tome to time in the mid 1950’s. To us kids he was already a star. He had a confidence about as a singer and as a person that was undeniable.
    He represents the best of us all and we are so proud of him and his accomplishments.
    What a talent.

  3. What a man, what a talent is right! This is a fantastic interview. Can’t wait for the special.

  4. I appreciate learning how Berry Gordy put Smokey Robinson on the “tell a story” path of songwriting. Oh how we love those song/stories. Thank you Carla Hayden for such a warm and personal interview.

  5. The interview with Smokey Robinson was great. I always enjoy listening to him as he speaks from his heart and is so mindful of his roots. Congratulations to Mr. Robinson for his many accomplishments.

  6. Having graduated from high school in Nashville, TN in 1969, I fully appreciated last night’s NPT program on Smokey Robinson’s Gershwin Award. I am so thankful to be a part of that time and it’s influence. Words are not enough to express my gratitude.

  7. I watched The Smokey Robinson special last night on WETA, it was absolutely phenomenal, with one notable exception: Tegan Marie. She did not belong in that lineup; a musical pedigree based on being an “Internet Phenom” speaks only to good self-marketing, not necessarily talent. She doesn’t sing in tune, and completely lacks the maturity needed to do justice to a classic like “My Guy.” YouTube is saturated with this kind of pap. Now the LOC?

  8. Happy birthday Smokie
    You inspired me to sing and I have always sung your songs for a living so thank you for all your years of music. You are a legend.

  9. hi Smokey I grew up in the fifties you always were the voice that gave each step I took a little more bounce thank god for people like you Love you SMOKEY GOD BLESS.

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