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Smokey Robinson on gift of songwriting, releasing new album

Smokey Robinson joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss his new album "Smokey and Friends"
Smokey Robinson joins "CBS This Morning" to d... 04:29

After more than 50 years, singer and songwriter Smokey Robinson is still hitting a high note.

Born and raised in Detroit and known as the "King of Motown," Robinson has been entertaining audiences for more than half a century with his smooth voice and charming lyrics, but Robinson claims "there's really no art" to songwriting.

"I think it's a gift. I think that everybody gets a gift, God gives everyone a gift," Robinson said Thursday on "CBS This Morning." "And songwriting, for me, I'm not one of those songwriters where I have to take myself to an isolated place for two months so I can write. It just happens to me out of the clear blue. I'm on the plane or somewhere and an idea comes."

Robinson said that it can be a line, a thought or a melody.

"There's no sequence," he said. "You don't know what comes first."

On his latest album, "Smokey & Friends," Robinson collaborated with artists including John Legend, Elton John, and Jesse J to re-record his greatest hits.

According to Robinson, the album was conceived by his manager and production manager. They hired producer and musician Randy Jackson, who Robinson calls "my brother."

"I love him so much, he's such a wonderful person," Robinson said. "He and I have never had the chance to work together before. We've known each other for years. ... Randy called the people who are on this record and said, 'What is your favorite Smokey Robinson song?' The songs that I'm singing are their favorite Smokey Robinson songs."

His name, Smokey, originated from when Robinson was a baby. His uncle, Claude, would take him to watch his favorite cowboy movies, particularly ones where actors like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry would sing. Uncle Claude had a cowboy name for Robinson - Smokey Joe.

"So whenever anybody asked me my name at that age, I told them Smokey Joe. Claude said my name is Smokey Joe. Then when I got to be about 12 or so they just dropped the Joe off and people have called me Smokey all my life," Robinson said.

As a teenager Robinson formed The Miracles, and Motown's Berry Gordy signed the group. He also wrote hits for other artists like "My Girl" for The Temptations. In 1972, Robinson went solo and became a hit solo artist.

The music world embraced him with inductions into the Rock and Roll and the Songwriters Halls of Fame. In 1987, he won his first Grammy for "Just to See Her."

Robinson continues to sell out arenas and remains an icon in the music industry, but he said the music business is "a total 360 from what it used to be" in both good and bad ways.

"There's so much downloading, free downloading and piracy, and people swapping music from their computers and stuff, it's actually financially hurting the music business," Robinson said. "However you are in a position where you're exposed to millions and millions of people instantly."

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