Entertainment & Arts

Smokey Robinson wrote Motown hit 'in 30 minutes'

Smokey Robinson
Image caption Smokey Robinson's best-known songs include Tracks of My Tears and Being With You

Motown legend Smokey Robinson has revealed he wrote one of his earliest hits in just half an hour.

Performed by his group The Miracles in 1961, Shop Around was the first Motown record to sell a million copies.

"That was the quickest song I ever wrote in my life," Robinson told the BBC. "It came out in about 30 minutes."

The star was speaking at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London before the opening night there of Motown the Musical.

Shop Around is one of dozens of songs that appear in the West End show based on the life of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy.

Image copyright Alastair Muir
Image caption The Jackson 5 are among the groups featured in Motown the Musical
Image copyright Alastair Muir
Image caption Jordan Shaw as Stevie Wonder

Gordy set up his record label in Detroit in 1959 with an $800 (£562) loan from his family. Motown's list of artists included Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5.

Robinson recalled how Gordy called him in the middle of the night to demand The Miracles re-record Shop Around - even after it had been released as a single - because he wasn't happy with the sound.

"He told us to go to the studio right away, so everybody showed up at three o' clock in the morning - except the piano player - and we changed the beat and sound and it was our first million-selling record."

The 76-year-old singer said that while Shop Around had taken 30 minutes to write, his 1979 song Cruisin' had taken five years.

Sam Smith revealed last year that his James Bond theme Writing's on the Wall had taken only 20 minutes to write. It won the Oscar for best song last month.

Image copyright Alastair Muir
Image caption Lucy St Louis as Diana Ross in Motown the Musical

Motown the Musical's opening in London follows a two-year run on Broadway and a US tour.

Gordy said he was delighted to bring the show to the West End because the UK had always welcomed the Motown sound.

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Media captionBerry Gordy: 'Motown was a fairytale'

"The UK has meant so much to Motown. It's the first place in the world outside of America that discovered us, loved us and backed us," he said.

"We're so proud of the young kids who used to listen to pirate radio and formed the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society. It grew from there. The UK was the gateway to the world and we will never forget that."

He added: "When Smokey would sing he was so romantic. He is responsible for more babies being born than anyone I know. And not all of them were his!"

Motown the Musical is booking at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 18 February 2017.

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