Smokey Robinson Reflects on Motown Hit 'The Tracks of My Tears' in Clip from New YouTube Series
Smokey Robinson is looking back on one of his greatest musical masterpieces of his career.
In honor of Black Music Month, the Motown legend, 81, is revisiting a number of his classic hit songs in AARP Studios' new 8-episode YouTube series Smokey Wrote That, premiering Thursday.
In PEOPLE's exclusive clip from one episode, Robinson details the origin story of the 1965 R&B song "The Tracks of My Tears" that he recorded with fellow The Miracles members Pete Moore and Marv Tarplin.
"The origin for the song was my guitarist. His name was Marv Tarplin," says Robinson. "He died a few years ago. But he was the most prolific, fantastic writing partner I ever had in my life."
"He was just a wonderful writing partner because what he would do was he would put his guitar riffs on a tape and give them to me until I could come up with a song for his guitar riff," Robinson continues of Tarplin, who died in 2011 at age 70. "So he had given me the music for 'The Tracks of My Tears' with him just playing the guitar on the tape and I'm listening to it every day."
The trailblazing singer said that after a week, he crafted the first three lines for the song: "Take a good look at my face/see a smile looks out of place/if you look closer it's easy to trace."
However, Robinson hit a mental roadblock and could not continue songwriting beyond those three lines. But that all changed one morning as the superstar was shaving, he recalled in the clip.
"I'm looking at my face and I'm thinking to myself, I said, 'What if a person had cried so much that their tears had actually left tracks in their face?' " says Robinson. "I said, 'That's it.' "
"So that's where 'The Tracks of My Tears' came from. That was the beginning of the finishing of the song, but the origin is Marv Tarplin," he adds.
"The Tracks of My Tears" has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and is considered by many critics to be among the best songs of the 20th century. Linda Ronstadt later released her own cover of the song that became a Top 40 hit in the U.S.
Smokey Wrote That is available now on YouTube.
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