Smokey Robinson is on the cover of the new AARP The Magazine.
Saluting the 60th anniversary of Motown Records, its most versatile star discusses a career that includes writing more than 4,000 songs. But Smokey's success is more than mere statistical achievement, it's also shaped by lifelong friendships with fellow Detroit legends Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and Aretha Franklin.
Robinson credits Berry Gordy -- who founded Motown after being cheated out of royalties for songs he wrote for Jackie Wilson on a white-owned label -- for shaping a company that gave voice to black artists. He reflects, "Back in those days, especially if you were black, nobody was paying you what you should be paid, if they paid you at all. So Berry decided to start his own record company and gave us that outlet."
Among the highlights of his Q&A:
- On Aretha Franklin: "I'm still in recovery mode, because I love her and I'm going to miss our conversations and our getting together. But I know that spiritually she's in a better place. She was suffering at the end there, and I don't ever want to see her suffer. So now she's cool, and I'm cool 'cause she's cool."
- On never believing he was a good singer: "No. I think I feel songs. Whitney Houston was a great singer. Celine Dion is a great singer. Aretha Franklin was a great singer. I'm not in that category, I won't fool myself. But I feel what I sing, and I think people can feel what I feel when I do."
- On what went into writing "Cruisin'": "[It] took five years. Marv[in Gaye] had given me the music, and... one day I was driving down Sunset Boulevard and I had my top down and I said, 'I'm just cruisin' down Sunset.' And then I said, 'Cruisin'! That's it!' I turned my car around, man. I want that gold!"