“As a singer, songwriter, producer and record executive, Smokey Robinson is a musical legend,” said Acting Librarian of Congress David S. Mao in a statement. “His rich melodies are works of art—enduring, meaningful and powerful. And he is a master at crafting lyrics that speak to the heart and soul, expressing ordinary themes in an extraordinary way. It is that quality in his music that makes him one of the greatest poetic songwriters of our time.”
“It gives me such joy and gratitude to be included among the past recipients of this most prestigious songwriting award,” said Robinson in the same statement. Robinson is the second Black recipient after Stevie Wonder, with whom Robinson created ”The Tears of a Clown.” Previous recipients include Sir Paul McCartney, Carole King and Billy Joel.
Robinson helped craft the definitive “Motown sound” style of R&B music during the 60s and 70s. As a member of The Miracles, the Detroit native penned and sang major hits like “Shop Around” and ”The Tracks of My Tears” before going solo on albums like “A Quiet Storm.” Behind the scenes, Robinson worked as Motown Records’ vice president and helped create hit songs for other artists like The Temptations’ “My Girl” and Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar.”
The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, named after composers George and Ira Gershwin, honors lifetime contributions in popular music.