Smokey Robinson Bios -
He's Only Human

Smokey Robinson bios give the Miracles' main man the star treatment--if that treatment includes personal catastrophes as well as professional conquests.

The autobiography below sure does. But paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, does the veteran songwriter slip into autopilot? Sure doesn't.

More below in my Motown book review!

Smokey Robinson Bios -
Smokey: Inside My Life

By Smokey Robinson, with David Ritz, 1989

Is his name Smokey or Speedy? The Motowner's Motowner bounds and glides across anecdotes in this not-quite-chronological story, which describes his early days, the Miracles years, and ends during his post-Motown phase.

Whoops, now I'm getting ahead of myself!

I'm not sure if it's good that this reader stumbled with surprise into the 1980s. A fast account of passing time, unlike flying time itself, doesn't necessarily mean the reader is having fun. More like the author is being vague and skipping over potentially fascinating details, like how he developed his producing talents beyond the fact that Berry Gordy mentored him.

(All right, my online Smokey biography does this too, but it's supposed to be a quick summary!)

Regardless of what Robinson writes about, the way he writes truly stands out. It's not enough to call it direct, concise, and full of character. With his attention-grabbing openers, he knows how to create a gripping narrative. With his sentence fragments, he knows how to speak with a flavorful informal voice.

Most of all, he knows how to use rhymes, alliteration, and other poetic devices to enliven his biography. From family history (a non-"floozie" Flossie) to musical inspiration (a "dazzling din of doo-wop"), he revels in language as well as life.

Other Smokey Robinson biographies couldn't get much blunter than this one. If there's any Motown artist who'd defend his company from charges of financial dishonesty, it would be Robinson. He likewise shields the much-maligned Diana Ross, who in his view falls victim to others' envy.

The Miracles singer extends this frankness to his own adultery, cocaine addiction, philosophy, professional obligations, thoughts on the music scene, and spiritual rebirth. That last thing lets this book end with the subject at peace, though thankfully not the permanently resting kind.

As in most Motown books, there are captioned photos and group/solo discographies. In addition, there's a list of many of his compositions.

But there's only one Smokey Robinson. This bio makes the most of him.

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