Smokey Robinson Keynote Interview

Keynote
Photo by Gary Miller

Smokey Robinson Keynote Interview

Austin Convention Center, Thursday, March 18

In the beginning, there was Oobla, a primitive fellow in a primitive village. Oobla had a friend, Coyote. One day, Coyote failed to howl at the moon, so Oobla gave it a shot. He crawled on top of a boulder, and his howls attracted neighbors. When Oobla finally quit, they raised a fist. "Uhn," they proclaimed, happy with the performance. And that, according to miraculous pop and soul legend Smokey Robinson, is how show business began. "So you did not start this," he told attendees of his keynote interview, unfurling the fable of Oobla at the tail end of his hourlong discussion with fellow Detroiter and veteran music critic Dave Marsh. Robinson gave credit to a pre-Motown Berry Gordy for signing his Matadors in 1958 (the group had not adopted the Miracles as a moniker yet) and went on to remember how Gordy salvaged his career after the two moved Motown to California. Stuck signing checks as the company's chief financial officer, Robinson was miserable, so Gordy told him: "I want you to get a band. I want you to make a record. And I want you to get out of here." Nattily dressed in leather and a brown turtleneck sweater, gold cross flashing on his chest, Robinson, 70, sang snatches of old songs – "Money (That's What I Want)," "Cruisin'," and "Shop Around." "I want to be Beethoven," he admitted. "I want to be Mozart. And in 300 years, I want people to be listening to my songs on whatever apparatus they will be listening to them on – even if it's some kind of implant."

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