At 83, Smokey Robinson is back with his first album of new music since 2009. He describes it as a concept record about sex and other forms of pleasure. The songs have the same smooth, soulful, sound that Smokey is known for but the overt sexuality, lyrically and in the title “Gasms,” have taken many by surprise. Robinson says that was his plan.
“I wanted the controversy, man. So that’s why I wrote so many sexy love songs,” he exclaimed in a conversation with Growing Bolder’s Bill Shafer. “It has been a while since
I’ve released some original material and I wanted to make a point.”
Robinson says he is tired of the misconception that older people cannot be sexy and this album is his response. “I hear people in their 60s say they don’t think about sex anymore. I think something is wrong with them. Sex burns just as bright and beautiful in me as it always has.”
Robinson has been making listeners swoon since 1955,when he formed the group “The Miracles,” which had 26 top-40 hits, most of which he wrote, sang and produced. Robinson became one of the most influential figures in music history, rising to vice president of Motown Records and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist.
Robinson insists that sex appeal has nothing to do with age but is instead an attitude anyone can have at any age. “I’m 83 and I don’t feel a day over 50,” he said. “See, I don’t ever want to get to the point where people are holding me up and walking me around, so I work real hard to take care of myself.”
He has been a long-time practitioner of Transcendental Meditation and has not eaten red meat since 1972 as part of his health regimen.
“I work out every day,” he said. “I’ve been doing yoga for 40 years and I try to eat right. I don’t really drink. I drink some wine and maybe a little sake but that’s about it and I just try to take care of myself, man.”
Robinson is supporting the release of the new album with extensive touring, which is something he’s been anxious to get back to after several years at home. “I tried retiring one time and after about three years I was climbing the walls,” he said. “There is such a need in me to be out on the road performing and meeting people that I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing with my life. So yeah, man, I want to tour all the time.”
Despite the rigorous schedule Robinson insists he feels better now than he can remember. “For me, life at 83 is better than it was at 73,” he said. “Listen, people look at show business and think that it must be an easy life. But it’s hard, man. You have to respect it, and I never take it for granted that because I’m Smokey Robinson that I’ll always have an audience or don’t have to perform at my very best. I work very hard to do all those things and I love every minute of it. In fact, I always take care of myself, and I urge everyone else to do the same because life is a blessing.”
Robinson believes that his life’s experiences have given him unique insight into what really matters in life. “Like I said, man, love what you’re doing, and whatever that is for you, give it your best shot every time,” he said. “Give it your best shot and don’t ever take anything for granted. That’s the secret, man. Be glad for every single day.”
This article is featured in the Winter 2023 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.