Bobby Rogersí funeral program (Rogers family)
Motown's Bobby Rogers was remembered for his humor, musical talent and paternal warmth by family, friends and musical colleagues Monday at a service at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church.
Rogers, 73, a Detroit native and longtime Southfield resident, died March 3 of complications from diabetes.
Tabernacle Missionary Baptist is just a quarter mile down West Grand Boulevard from Motown headquarters, where the lanky, affable Northeastern High School graduate found fame with his cousin Claudette Rogers (later Robinson) and fellow Detroit teens Smokey Robinson, Pete Moore and Ronnie White as the Miracles.
"One of God's miracles" was emblazoned on a banner on Rogers' casket, and he was referred to as "sweet" and "a miracle" by more than one speaker. To many of his Motown friends, he was simply "BR."
Claudette Robinson, who was close to Rogers from the age of 10 on, summed up the consensus on her down-to-earth cousin.
"Bobby was a little shy between the ages of 10 and 12, because of the glasses he had to wear," Robinson said. "But once he got the thinner glasses, and discovered girls, it was on! He loved to dance, loved to sing, loved to laugh. When he walked into the room, he put everybody at ease. That wasn't just after he was a star so to speak, but he always was like that."
Rogers never was one to put on airs. "He never seemed to realize the magnitude of what had taken place," Robinson continued. "Maybe because it was so gradual, our fame didn't happen overnight, so he was always just a regular guy. It was always, 'Hi I'm Bobby Rogers,' or, 'I'm Bobby.'"
His bandmate, Smokey Robinson, couldn't make it, but Claudette Robinson read a message from him in honor of Rogers, who was born on the same month and day, and in the same Detroit hospital.
"Bobby Rogers, I'm sure you are dancing and celebrating your new body in your new home. I have a concert tonight that I could not get out of. Enjoy your eternity. I love you, your brother Smokey."
A statement was also read on behalf of Pete Moore of the original Miracles, who was too ill to fly in.
Many from Detroit's music community were assembled in the capacious sanctuary to hear Rogers' pastor, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth E. Harris of Detroit Baptist Temple, and many others speak and offer condolences to his widow, Joan Rogers.
Present were David Finley, Mark Scott and Tee Turner of the latter-day Miracles; Janie Bradford (original Motown secretary and co-writer of "Money"); Martha Reeves; Rosalind Ashford-Holmes and Annette Beard-Helton of the Vandellas; Cal Street and Bertha Barbee McNeil of the Velvelettes; Katherine Anderson Schaffner of the Marvelettes; all three members of the Andantes; Willie Jones of the Royal Jokers; several of the Dramatics and Contours, and members of the Motown Historical Museum staff.
Rogers co-wrote many memorable songs with Smokey Robinson, including "Going to a Go-Go" for the Miracles, and "The Way You Do the Things You Do," the first smash for the Temptations.
He used to love to tell the story of how he and Smokey were driving to a gig in Virginia, when Smokey turned and asked him, "Bobby, what do you look for in a woman?" Rogers' response, "First I look at the purse," was a classic, and became a hit for the Contours.
His was the voice that dueted with Robinson on "You Really Got a Hold on Me," and it's the bubbly Rogers speaking voice that kicks off Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," with the words "Hey, man, what's your name," "Everything is everything" and "It's just a groovy party man, I can dig it."
Rogers was also remembered as a loving, protective husband and father and active deacon of his Oakland Avenue church, often pitching in to grill meat for church events.
Apart from his wife, Joan, Rogers is survived by his son, Robert Rogers III; daughters Kimberly Hughes, Gina Hughes and BobbaeLaWanda Rogers, and three grandchildren.