Smokey Robinson Returns to the Apollo: ‘Retiring Didn’t Work for Me, Man’

Robinson returns to the Apollo, saying “Retiring didn’t work for me, man”

Smokey Robinson performs at the Apollo. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, LEWIS BENT)
Smokey Robinson performs at the Apollo. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, LEWIS BENT)

Motown legend Smokey Robinson is showing no signs of slowing down.

At 84, the iconic singer, songwriter, producer, and executive is still actively performing and recording music. On Saturday, June 29, Robinson will grace the stage of Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater, a venue with significant sentimental value to him.

“I tried retiring one time and it didn’t work for me, man,” Robinson told PEOPLE exclusively.

He was referring to a brief one-year break in 1972 after achieving massive success with his band, The Miracles, with hits like “Shop Around,” “Tracks of My Tears,” “You Really Got a Hold On Me,” “Tears of a Clown,” and “I Second That Emotion.”

Robinson also penned chart-toppers for Motown legends like The Supremes, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye. Despite his short-lived attempt at retirement, Robinson continued his work at Motown until 1990 and has remained a constant presence in the music industry ever since, producing mid-career hits like “Crusin’.”

“I’m living my impossible childhood dream,” Robinson said. “I’m doing what I love, and it’s a blessing.” His enduring passion for music and his commitment to health and fitness have kept him vibrant and creatively engaged.

Smokey Robinson performing at the Apollo. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, LEWIS BENT)
Smokey Robinson performing at the Apollo. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, LEWIS BENT)

Robinson attributes much of his vitality to his lifelong love of music, a passion that was nurtured in his childhood home.

“I love music, and I always have, before I even knew that I was ever going to have a career,” he reflected. Growing up in a house filled with blues, gospel, jazz, classical music, and more, Robinson developed a deep appreciation for all genres.

“Music is very, very, very essential through my life and in my life. So yeah, man, I’m a music lover!”

Robinson’s dedication to music has brought him immense joy and fulfillment. “The thrill I take in making music is the fact that I’m still doing it,” he said.

“Nothing gives me that same thing as being on stage and being with people and having a good time.” Unlike many in the entertainment industry, Robinson avoided the fast-living, hard-partying lifestyle, focusing instead on the pure joy of performing.

“When you’re in show business, people think that’s all you do: you’re in show business and you party, and that’s it,” he noted. “Invariably, somebody would come backstage after a show and say, ‘OK, Smokey, now where’s the party?’ I would tell them, ‘I just had the party! I just had the party for two hours.

Now, I’m going back to my hotel room to watch some TV and fall asleep.’”

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, COURTESY THE APOLLO FOUNDATION)
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, COURTESY THE APOLLO FOUNDATION)

Returning to the Apollo Theater holds special significance for Robinson. “The Apollo is very, very, very precious to me,” he said. “The Apollo is the granddaddy of Black music.”

The theater has been a cornerstone of Black entertainment, launching the careers of countless legendary artists. Robinson’s connection to the Apollo is deeply personal. “It is the very first professional date that I ever played with The Miracles,” he recalled.

“We were on the Ray Charles show at the Apollo Theater.” The Apollo’s lobby features a mural with images of Black artists from past to present, a wall that Robinson aspired to join.

“When we first walked in there, I told The Miracles, ‘Gosh, one day I hope we’re on that wall.’ We finally made the wall!”

With the Apollo set to close for renovations for three to four years, Robinson is especially eager to perform there one last time before the hiatus. “It is a special place for me, and there’s no place like it,” he said.

Fans attending Robinson’s performance at the Apollo can expect a mix of classic hits and new music from his most recent album, “Gasms.” Released fourteen months ago, the album has introduced a spicier, sexier flavor to Robinson’s signature sound, surprising some longtime fans.

Smokey Robinson performs at the Apollo. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, LEWIS BENT)
Smokey Robinson performs at the Apollo. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, LEWIS BENT)

“I just had an album come out called ‘Gasms’—yeah, I said ‘Gasms!'” he laughed. “It’s out now and it’s doing well, and we’re playing music from that in our live shows.” Robinson is also working on a Spanish-language album, with just two more tracks to finish.

“I’m always working on music, man,” Robinson said of his tireless creative work ethic. “I do it all the time.”

Reflecting on his illustrious career, Robinson cites two profound days in his life: the day he met Berry Gordy and the day Gordy founded Motown.

“I’ve had a wonderful, wonderful life, man, and so many wonderful events and things that happened,” he said. “There’s been a lot of negative too, but the positive outweighs the negative as far as I’m concerned.”

For fans eager to witness Smokey Robinson’s magic live, tickets for his performance at the Apollo Theater are available now. Don’t miss the chance to see this legendary artist continue living his dream, sharing his timeless music with audiences old and new.

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