Smokey Robinson Mike Freedberg - Essay

Mike Freedberg

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The very first song on [Love Breeze,] Smokey Robinson's best album since his quitting the Miracles, makes you restless while you dance, blue when you kiss. Since Robinson's previous outings as a soloist have been at best incidental music to a public relations campaign for love, who was expecting him suddenly to serve up lyrics and music as eloquent as "Tracks of My Tears"? No PR here…. This is Al Green's map of love: something that makes you do right, do wrong.

Like Green on The Belle Album, Smokey on Love Breeze finds the search for love lonely and wearying….

But where Green paces out the space between Saturday night and Sunday morning, Robinson measures an interpersonal distance. His lyrics fix on the place where fact and dissembling meet—there's the place for touching….

Blues fans will hear Robert Johnson's troubles in Robinson's new songs—Smokey seeks answers and finds only deaf ears, seeks affection and gets the clash of wills. You can't listen to Love Breeze without worrying about Smokey's sanity. He rebels and then surrenders; he frustrates and disarms you, while the music pitter-patters as if it's running away. Almost instinctively, you dance or dream away from Robinson's struggles—anything to hide from the combat Smokey knows he must endure to reach another person.

Mike Freedberg, "Tears of His Tracks," in Craw-daddy (copyright © 1978 by Crawdaddy Publishing Co., Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), May, 1978, p. 71.