The Library of Congress announced Tuesday that seminal Motown musician Smokey Robinson will receive its vaunted Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The 76-year-old performer joins the likes of previous recipients including Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney.
“As a singer, songwriter, producer, and record executive, Smokey Robinson is a musical legend,” Acting Librarian of Congress David S. Mao said in a statement. “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.”
Robinson will receive the award in Washington, D.C. in November. “It gives me such joy and gratitude to be included among the past recipients of this most prestigious songwriting award,” Robinson commented in a statement.
Robinson came to prominence in the ’60s with his group the Miracles, which recorded hits like 1960’s “Shop Around” and 1970’s “The Tears of a Clown.” In 2009, the singer reflected on his career’s origins in a conversation with EW: “We didn’t realize we were going to make history,” he said. “Motown is a once-in-a-lifetime musical event. Nothing like that had happened before then, nor do I believe anything will happen like that ever again.”
Robinson later had a successful career as a solo artist, with songs including 1979’s “Cruisin'” and 1981’s “Being With You.” His 1965 Miracles song “The Tracks of My Tears” was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2007.