There’s a Smokey in my Tale

Book: How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood

Author: Jim Grimsley

Music: The Tears of a Clown

Composer/Artist: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Who doesn’t like Smokey Robinson’s voice – velvet dipped in honey and sprinkled – with wanton abandon – with marshmallow nuggets.

Although I was aware of the classic Miracles hits like this one or I Second that Emotion and Abraham, Martin, and John, his 1981 hit Being With You was contemporaneous with my growing up while the others were before my time or, at least, at a time that American soul music was not on my horizon. So I have more of a liking for that than the others.

Fast forward a quarter of a century. Having moved to New York with my family we were city-hopping while we waited for the renovation of our Brooklyn apartment to be completed. The first week of December, 2006 saw us in the nation’s capital. It was bloody freezing while we were there but it made for a mainly tourist-free Washington DC. We made our way to the Kennedy Center and enjoyed a stroll around and a free concert performed by a very large ensemble of bell ringers. As we were leaving we noticed a bit of a kerfuffle at the main entrance. It was Smokey Robinson making an entrance. It turned out that we were there on the day of the Kennedy Center Honors and dear old Smokey was to be honored that night. It was a bit of a thrill to be that close to such a legend. Also honored that night were Dolly Parton (go Dolly!), Zubin Mehta, Steven Spielberg, and Andrew Lloyd Weber. The latter features in one of my favorite Elvis Costello lines. From Spike‘s God’s Comic … ‘So there he was on a water-bed, drinking a cola of a mystery brand / Readin’ an airport novelette / Listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Requiem”. I always took that to be a description of the most middlebrow of deities.

Link to streaming audio: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (Spotify)

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