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June 19

Smokey Robinson

Considered the first recording artist signed by Motown Records, Smokey Robinson was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2006.

Photo by David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images

1973: That Velvet Voice
Smokey Robinson releases his first solo record
He’d been a soulful crooner since he was a kid, singing with other talented teens and later with super groups like The Miracles. But when Smokey Robinson (nicknamed “Smokey Joe” by his uncle) released his first solo recording, Smokey, he was carving a new artistic path for himself. Among the tracks on Smokey was “Sweet Harmony,” a valentine to The Miracles and the pleasures of singing with them.

At the time this record was released, Robinson was also serving as a vice president at Motown Records, the legendary Detroit label founded by Robinson’s close friend Berry Gordy. With his high tenor voice and ability to stir both joy and heartache with his songs, Robinson holds the nickname, “King of Motown.”
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