An Evening With Smokey Robinson PBS-TV Show

Saturday 10/10/2009

Thorne Auditorium Northwestern University School of Law

Chicago, Illinois

An Evening With Smokey Robinson, an hour-long, PBS-TV live-to-tape interview program provides an inside look into the life and career of Motown legend Smokey Robinson. Taped on October 10, 2009 in front of a packed audience at Northwestern University Law School’s Thorne Auditorium, An Evening With Smokey Robinson features PBS-TV veteran journalist Gwen Ifill as the host and former Motown executive and film producer Suzanne de Passe as Mistress of Ceremonies. The program also features musical tributes from Grammy Award nominated artists Teena Marie, Howard Hewett, and Musiq Soulchild.


Smokey Robinson, a musical icon who transformed a generation of music with his smooth voice and creative songwriting, helped initiate the Motown musical dynasty with Berry Gordy. He also served as the lead singer for one of the label’s first and most successful groups, The Miracles. As a member of The Miracles and as a solo artist, Robinson gave Motown thirty-seven Top 40 hits between 1967 and 1988 including “Shop Around,” “Ooo Baby Baby,” “I Second That Emotion,” and “The Tears of a Clown.” Robinson also wrote hit songs for other Motown artists including The Supremes, The Temptations, The Marvelletes, Mary Wells, and Marvin Gaye. Robinson’s legacy has influenced numerous R&B artists and his work laid the groundwork for the genre’s success today. To conclude the program, Smokey Robinson performed his hit song “Cruisin’” with the evening’s three musical guests. 


The HistoryMakers staff has created a finding aid for this event. View/Download below: 

Finding Aid To An Evening With Smokey Robinson.pdf



Smokey Robinson 

Once pronounced by Bob Dylan as America’s “greatest living poet,” acclaimed singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson’s career spans over four decades of hits. He has received numerous awards including the Grammy Living Legend Award, NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award, Honorary Doctorate (Howard University), and the National Medal of Arts Award from the President of the United States. He has also been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. 


Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Robinson founded The Miracles while still in high school. The group was Berry Gordy’s first vocal group, and it was at Robinson’s suggestion that Gordy start the Motown Record dynasty. Their single of Robinson’s “Shop Around” became Motown’s first #1 hit on the R&B singles chart. In the years following, Robinson continued to pen hits for the group including “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Ooo Baby Baby,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Going to a Go-Go,” “More Love,” “Tears of a Clown” (co-written with Stevie Wonder), and “I Second That Emotion.” 


Smokey then turned to a solo career where he continued his tradition of hitmaking with “Just to See Her,” “Quiet Storm,” “Cruisin’,” and “Being with You,” among others. Smokey Robinson continues to thrill sold-out audiences around the world with his high tenor voice, impeccable timing, and profound sense of lyric. Never resting on his laurels, Smokey Robinson remains a beloved icon in our musical heritage. 


 Gwen Ifill

Pioneering journalist Gwen Ifill was born in Queens, New York in 1955. After earning her B.A. degree in Communications from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1977, Ifill was hired by The Boston Herald American in the midst of the city’s notorious busing crisis. After joining the Baltimore Evening Sun, she moved to covering national politics. In 1984, Ifill was hired by The Washington Post; and in 1991, she became The White House correspondent for The New York Times. In 1994, she was named the chief Congressional correspondent for NBC; and in 1999, she became the moderator of PBS’ Washington Week in Review, as well as a correspondent for The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. In October of 2004, Ifill became the first African American woman to moderate a vice-presidential debate. Ifill’s first book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was published in 2009.
Ifill served as the moderator for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. Ifill is the recipient of more than a dozen honorary doctorates and several broadcasting excellence awards, including honors from the National Press Foundation, Ebony Magazine, the Radio Television News Directors Association, and American Women in Radio and Television. Ifill also interviewed Diahann Carroll, Eartha Kitt, Quincy Jones and Valerie Simpson for The HistoryMakers annual PBS-TV An Evening With…series. 

 Executive Producer 

Julieanna Richardson



Curtis Simmons


 Musical Director

Leon Joyce, Jr.


Mistress of Ceremonies

Suzanne de Passe



Howard Hewett

Teena Marie

Musiq Souldchild


 Honorary Co-Chairs 

Clarence Avant

The Honorable Richard & Maggie Daley

Quincy Jones

Vernon & Ann Jordan

The Honorable Colin & Alma Powell

Linda Johnson Rice

John Rogers, Jr.


Event Co-Chairs  

Sandra Anderson Baccus

Dwight & Toni Bush

Kelly McNamara Corley

Michele Coleman Mayes

Chris Simmons


 Benefit Committee  

Alfreda Bradley-Coar

Cynthia Buciak

Demetrius Carney

Adela Cepeda

Andrew & Kelly King Dibble

Tim & Ashley Francis

Esther Franklin

Rita Fry

Gary & Denise Gardner

Mark Goodman

Kerry & Karen Gordy

Malcolm & Gloria Hemphill

Will & Donna Brooks Lucas

Billy & Michel Martin

H. Melvin Ming

Sharon Morrow

Isobel Neal

Langdon Neal & Jeanette Sublett

Quintin & Diane Primo

Timothy & Sandra Rand

Al B. Reid

Andre & Dana Rice

Shari Runner

James & Gertrude Wooten