DETROIT -- Born Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the pioneer singing group of Motown Record Corp., are waving good-by to Detroit this week ...from Windsor.
It hardly seems fitting that Robinson and company should be singing swan-songs from across the river at the Elmwood Casino. But according to Smokey, who recently announced he is calling it quits as a performer, there was no other choice.
"I sincerely wish we could've played our last area gig in Detroit," he said yesterday before opening his current stand at the Windsor supper club. "But detroit's a dea spot --there are no really hip places to play."
Robinson's termination with the Miracles becomes officialin June. The split is a friendly one;it's something they've been discussing for a year.
Smokey and the Miracles in 1959 were the foundation on which recording giant Berry Gordy founded Motown, now the world's largest independent recording company.
Several years ago Gordy named Smokey to a vice-president's post, a position he hopes to concentrate on now that he's finished with performing.
"I also want to compose and produce more," said the 31-year-old Detroiter whom Bob Dylan once called "America's No. 1 living poet."
His immediate plans are to produce the next Supremes' LP and work on a Motown film, "The Lady Sings the Blues," the biography of blues singer Billie Holliday. Diana Ross will play the title role and Smokey is involved with the script and score.
The recording future of the three Miracles --- Ronnie White, Robby Rodgers and Pete Moore -- is still uncertain but Ronnie said "for all practical purposes, the Miracles are quitting as a live group."
They may cut a record as a trio or look for a new lead singer, a task they say will be overwhelming.
"We might even go with a different type of sound -- more progressive and heavier since heads are turning in that direction," Bob added.
The "sound" last night at their Elmwood opening was rich and pure, dominated by Smokey's tenor. "People used to think my wife sang all my songs" which occasionally breaks into a falsetto, backed by perfect three-part harmonies.
If Isaac Hayes' music can be called "hot-buttered soul," the Miracles' sound can be described as "cool uncluttered soul."
It's a sound that's most identifiable in their hit, "I second that emotion" -- the silky lead vocal joined by smooth harmony on the bridge and refrain.
Last night's audience was given a generous sampling of Miracle's standards. There was "Way Over There," the first recording the Motown company ever pressed; "Shop Around," their first old single; and Tracks of My Tears," in my opinion, the most beautifully-melodic piece ever to come out of Detroit.
They also performed a tune the group neither wrote nor recorded as a single, "Abraham, Martin and John."
The song contains a line that states: "It seems the good die young."
The same could be said for the young group called Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.