William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr. is an American R&B and soul singer-songwriter, record producer, and former record executive. Robinson is one of the primary figures associated with Motown, second only to the company’s founder, Berry Gordy. Robinson’s consistent commercial success and creative contributions to the label have earned him the title “King of Motown.”
As an original member of Motown Records’ first vocal group The Miracles and as a solo artist, Robinson delivered thirty-seven Top 40 hits for Motown between 1960 and 1987. He also served as the company’s vice president from 1961 to 1988.
Robinson was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan’s North End neighborhood.
According to Entertainment Weekly, “when he was 6 or 7, his Uncle Claude christened him Smokey Joe, which the young William, a Western-movie enthusiast, at first assumed to be his cowboy name for me. Some time later, he learned the deeper significance of his nickname: It derived from smokey, a pejorative term for dark-skinned blacks. “I’m doing this,” his uncle told the light-skinned boy, “so you won’t ever forget that you’re black.”