Smokey Robinson
Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson is the current recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, as was previously announced by Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao.

The Gershwin Prize honors a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations. Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel and Willie Nelson.

“As a singer, songwriter, producer and record executive, Smokey Robinson is a musical legend,” said Acting Librarian of Congress David S. Mao. “His rich melodies are works of art—enduring, meaningful and powerful. And he is a master at crafting lyrics that speak to the heart and soul, expressing ordinary themes in an extraordinary way. It is that quality in his music that makes him one of the greatest poetic songwriters of our time.”

“It gives me such joy and gratitude to be included among the past recipients of this most prestigious songwriting award,” Robinson said.

Robinson received the prize in Washington, D.C., in November.

As part of its Black History Month programming, PBS will broadcast the ceremony on Friday, February 10, 2017, on PBS at 9/8c (check local listings). The all-star tribute to Smokey Robinson will include performances by Robinson, as well as Aloe Blacc, Gallant, CeeLo Green, JoJo, Ledisi, Tegan Marie, Kip Moore, Corinne Bailey Rae, Esperanza Spalding, The Tenors, BeBe Winans, and a special appearance by Berry Gordy, Founder of Motown — with Samuel L. Jackson as host and Greg Phillinganes as music director.

Producer, songwriter and Grammy Award winner, Smokey Robinson has released dozens of Top-40 hits and added more than 4,000 songs to his legacy songbook. His music reads like a playlist of Motown’s greatest hits and he is the creative force behind many Motown classics from “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (1963) and “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965), to “I Second That Emotion” (1967), “The Tears of a Clown” (co-written with Stevie Wonder, 1970), “Cruisin’” (1979), “Being With You” (1981), “Just to See Her” and “One Heartbeat” (1987). “The Tracks of My Tears” was named to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2007 as one of the nation’s culturally, historically or aesthetically significant sound recordings.

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Robinson founded the Miracles while still in high school. Berry Gordy’s first vocal group, The Miracles released the single “Shop Around” in 1960, which became Motown’s first million-selling hit. Robinson’s collaboration with Gordy from day one of the Motown record label grew into a musical dynasty. Producer, talent scout and songwriter for Motown, Robinson also served as the label’s vice president for nearly three decades. His accomplishments are many. He has received the Grammy Living Legend Award, NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award, Kennedy Center Honors, the presidential National Medal of Arts Award and the BET Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

“Smokey Robinson: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, will premiere on Friday, February 10, 2017, on PBS at 9/8c (check local listings).

Watch a 7-minute preview below: