While appearing on Wednesday’s episode of The Jennifer Hudson Show, Motown alum Smokey Robinson opened up about growing up around other Motown legends, like Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross, and his controversial new album, Gasms. Plus, the 83-year-old and Hudson re-created Robinson and Franklin’s iconic performance of “Ooo Baby Baby” on Soul Train.
Hudson and Robinson talked about his childhood in Detroit, and he recounted living next to some of Motown’s biggest artists.
“I grew up four doors down the street from Diana Ross,” he shared on the show. “She was like, my four-doors-down-the-street neighbor, and I’ve known her since she was probably about 8-years-old.”
Franklin was just as close.
“Right around the corner was Aretha Franklin,” Robinson said, adding later than he knew the late singer since “I was 8.”
Hudson, shocked by Robinson’s proximity to stardom, asked the audience, “Do you see this?”
“The Temptations lived right across the avenue,” Robinson added as the audience remained stunned. “Back then, they were called The Distance.”
Robinson remembered when Ross “left the neighborhood and she moved to a place called the Brewster Projects and she started a group and they were called The Primettes.” Eventually, according to Robinson, “The Distance kind of broke up and started a new group — they were called The Primes.”
Hudson then asked the “Cruisin'” vocalist if they ever sang together back in the day.
“Yeah we did, especially the guys,” Robinson said. “We used to have what we call group battles. We could sing at the recreation center and at school and on the corner, anywhere there were some girls.”
After more than five decades in the music industry, Robinson is putting out new music. His upcoming album, Gasms, caused quite a stir online for its racy title. Of what inspired the album, Robinson said it was time.
“I haven’t had an album out of original material in a long time, probably better than 10 years,” he shared. “So I was thinking I’m going to record an album — I had a couple of songs that I had recorded — and I said, ‘I’m going to write some songs and do a new album.'”
He remembered asking himself, “What can I do after all these years to create some attention?”
Robinson knew that titling the project Gasms would have fans asking themselves, “What does he mean, ‘gasms?'”
“I mean whatever you mean with gasms,” he added cheekily.
The Hall of Fame inductee admitted that he wanted a “controversial” title “that would make people say, ‘Well, what is he talking about?'”
“People think that when you talk about gasm, the first gasm that comes to mind is orgasms,” He explained. “Before I completed it, I looked up the word ‘gasm,’ and ‘gasm’ is any good feeling. Any good feeling you may have is a gasm.”
To conclude the interview portion of episode, Hudson asked Robinson about his 1979 performance of his 1965 hit “Ooo Baby Baby” with Franklin.
“I think she was going to do a performance on Soul Train that day and I just happened to be there because the new Miracles were there and they had a new lead singer and I was brought over to do Soul Train,” he said.
Robinson explained Soul Train host Don Cornelius was the performance’s “instigator,” as he simply asked the duo to sing one of the 83-year-old’s songs together — and the rest is history.
Hudson and the singer then rushed to the set’s piano and re-created the iconic moment, after which the audience roared with applause.