Smokey Robinson Crosses Over into Gospel

"I was dead," Robinson told The Associated Press. "I was ashamed of myself because it wasn't like (drug addiction) happened to me as a teenager or a young man. I was a full-fledged adult and my li
( [email protected] ) Jul 30, 2004 08:31 AM EDT

For nearly four decades, Smokey Robinson's professional accomplishments have been celebrated and his signature has become synonymous with classic songwriting and timeless music.

Back in his earlier days with Motown records when he penned hits such as "Shop Around," "Ooh Baby Baby," "The Tracks of My Tears" and "My Girl," Robinson has been credited as an architect of R&B music. Bob Dylan (news) once called him "America's greatest living poet."

Yet, through all the successes, the details regarding his personal struggles have not been revealed. During the 1980¡¦s, he began the usage of drugs, a recreation that he took up with his friends. This eventually took him into a long two-year period of darkness.

"I was dead," Robinson told The Associated Press. "I was ashamed of myself because it wasn't like (drug addiction) happened to me as a teenager or a young man. I was a full-fledged adult and my life was going exactly as I would have written it, but drugs don't care who you are or what you're doing."

It was not until one day, after his close friend Leon Issac Kennedy who took Robinson to a storefront church in Los Angeles, Robinson says he threw away his dark habits.

"I turned it over to God," he said of his recovery. "I never went to rehab or a doctor or psychotherapy. The Lord freed me that night and when I came out of there, I was healed."

Currently, Robinson is taking his first steps singing in the Gospel world with his April release with Robso Records, ¡§Food for the Spirit.¡¨ Before recording the nine-song project, Robinson had been writing inspirational songs with the intention of shopping them to other artists.

"There are so many people who don't know that I have a wonderful, wonderful relationship with Christ," he said. "As human beings, we are conscious of our physical selves, but I don't think that the majority of us are thinking about developing our spiritual selves. I called the album "Food for the Spirit" because I want (listeners') spirits to be fed."

Robinson's career began with The Matadors, a local group that eventually morphed into the legendary quintet The Miracles. After brainstorming with Berry Gordy to form Motown Records in 1958, Robinson's talents as a singer, songwriter and producer began to take shape.

"Being a part of Motown is one of my proudest achievements," Robinson said. "We were a family ... I hadn't seen The Funk Brothers in 15 or 20 years, but when I saw them at the Motown's 45th (celebration), it was like I'd just gotten through doing a session with them in the studio. One of the greatest thrills that I've had in a long time was doing some dates with Gladys (Knight). We traveled all over the country and had a ball."

Along with writing and producing songs for The Miracles, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations, The Marvelettes and the late Marvin Gaye, Robinson's own titles as a solo artist have included "Cruisin'," "Being With You" and "Quiet Storm," the title track from his 1975 solo debut that has since launched a whole radio programming movement.

"One of the DJs who was on the air at night in Washington, D.C. named his show 'The Quiet Storm' and it has snowballed all over the country, Robinson said. "I'm really proud that it has become a trademark."

Since his 1999 studio album release, "Intimate," he has regularly shared his story of triumph over drug addiction at churches, rehabilitation facilities, gang meetings and juvenile detention centers.

The father of three and grandfather of eight, Robinson is "very happy" with his family life.

"I've been blessed enough to have a job that I love and it's by God's grace that I'm doing what I'm doing," he said. "So, I give Him the glory, the power and the credit ¡X I give Him the accolades. I'm living beyond my wildest imagination."