Smokey Robinson – one of the most beloved and influential figures in the history of popular music – will unleash a new album of original material (and one surprising cover song) ‘Time Flies When You’re Having Fun’ is slated for release on August 25, 2009 on ROBSO Records/ADA Distribution. The first single at radio will be Robinson’s cover of Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why.”
With guests Joss Stone, Carlos Santana, and India. Arie lending their estimable musical talents and famed graphic artist Shepard Fairey’s Studio Number One providing the cover art, Smokey’s newest disc (which he produced with the assistance of Gary Gold and Brian French) will undoubtedly galvanize new fans as well as longtime admirers. And as a slew of awards and other honors come his way, this Motown trailblazer and national treasure is sure to dominate in 2009 as he celebrates a dazzling 50 years in the limelight.
Time Flies was recorded, like his Motown tracks, with the band in one room. “That way was like doing a concert, because everybody was feeding off of each other,” Smokey reflects. “It’s just that live vibe.” The new songs recall various phases of his career, boasting old-school duets (such as “You’re Just My Life,” with India.Arie, and “You’re the One for Me” with Stone), midtempo R&B-pop (“Girlfriend”) and intimate soul (“Whatcha Gonna Do,” “Love Bath” and the title track). Santana’s inimitable guitar chimes in on the sensual jam “Please Don’t Take Your Love.”
Smokey’s one departure from self-penned material is his take on the Norah Jones hit “Don’t Know Why,” which he makes entirely his own – and which is sure to send chills down listeners’ spines. The whole package will be wrapped up with cover graphics by Shepard Fairey’s Studio Number One, best known for the ubiquitous Barack Obama “Hope” poster.
Smokey is once again ubiquitous himself. On June 26, the man Bob Dylan once called “America’s greatest living poet” received the prestigious Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award from ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) during the 22nd Annual Rhythm & Soul Music Awards. The honor is bestowed on artists who have had a major impact on the legacy of Rhythm and Soul Music.
Further recognition of that legacy came from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, which in May conferred an honorary degree on Smokey; the Ivor Novello Awards, where he received the UK International Special Achievement Award in May; the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which inducted him with his group, The Miracles, in March (he’d already received a star as a solo artist several years earlier); and Elvis Costello’s acclaimed TV series “Spectacle” on the Sundance Channel, during which the host spent a spellbinding hour chatting and singing with the music-world icon. In 2006 (the year of his last release, Timeless Love), he was among the five honorees at the Kennedy Center Honors.
It’s scarcely a surprise, in the year of Motown’s 50th anniversary, that Smokey would be so roundly praised and feted – he is, after all, the sterling pen and satin voice behind such mega hits as “Shop Around,” “Tracks of My Tears,” “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Tears of a Clown,” “I Second That Emotion,” “Going to a Go-Go” and “Cruisin’,” among others too numerous to list here.
And those are just some of the Smokey hits that Smokey sang; Marvin Gaye (“Ain’t That Peculiar,” “I’ll Be Doggone”), The Temptations (“My Girl,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do”), The Four Tops (“Still Water (Love)”), Mary Wells (“You Beat Me to the Punch,” “My Guy”), The Marvelettes (“Don’t Mess With Bill,” “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game”), Brenda Holloway (“When I’m Gone”) and other Motown greats propelled a trove of sparkling Robinson compositions up the charts during the years of Motown’s unrivaled dominance. All over the world at this very moment, radio stations, jukeboxes, iPods, movie soundtracks and the absent-minded humming of myriad music fans are alight with his melodies.
With Time Flies When You’re Having Fun, the great Smokey Robinson has conjured still more songs to get stuck in listeners’ heads. “Has it been 50 years already?” Smokey asks. “Time really does fly.”
Stream “Dont Know Why”