On this day in music history: December 5, 1970 - “The Tears Of A Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on December 12, 1970. Written by Stevie Wonder, Henry Cosby and Smokey Robinson, it is the second R&B and lone pop chart topper for the Detroit based R&B vocal group led by singer, songwriter and producer Smokey Robinson. Stevie Wonder and his then producer Hank Cosby write the music for the song in the Fall of 1966, but are not able to come up with suitable lyrics for it. They play it for Smokey at the annual Motown Christmas party that year and ask if he can write some lyrics for it. Upon hearing the instrumental track, the intros’ calliope like sound reminds Robinson of the circus. He’ll begin to write lyrics about Pagliacci The Clown, the central character in the Ruggero Leoncavallo opera, “Pagliacci”. The man in the song compares himself to the famed clown who brought joy to many, but himself is sad and lonely because he doesn’t have a woman who loves him. The Miracles record their vocals in early 1967 and the song is first released as a track on the album “Make It Happen”, which goes largely unnoticed by the public. It is first released in the UK as a single in September 1970 after a successful re-release of “The Tracks Of My Tears”. “Clown” hits number one in the UK selling over 900,000 copies, leading to its US release. “The Tears Of A Clown” sells over a million copies in the US, and its popularity extends Robinsons’ stay in The Miracles, who prior to the songs’ release had planned to leave the group in order to spend more time at home with his wife and family before launching his own solo career. The song is covered numerous times over the years with versions by Petula Clark, The (English) Beat, Nnenna Freelon, Phil Collins, Eumir Deodato, Marc Cohn, and Boyzone. “The Tears Of A Clown” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002.
Backstage at the Apollo Theater, 1964, the Temptations practice the lyrics to their soon-to-be-a-hit song “My Girl,” coached by Smokey Robinson (who wrote the song with fellow Miracles member Ronald White). Clockwise from top: David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Otis Williams, and Smokey Robinson.
March 6, 1965 - 52 Years Ago Today: The Temptations went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with their single, “My Girl.” The Smokey Robinson/Ronnie White-penned song was a sequel to the 1964 Mary Wells No. 1 hit, “My Guy,” written solely by Robinson. “My Girl is arguably the most beloved and most requested of the Temptations hits in a discography of 58 Hot 100 singles which includes 37 Top 40’s, 16 Top Tens and four No. 1’s. "My Girl,” is also noteworthy for being the group’s first No. 1 and has since sold in excess of two million copies in the U.S. alone.