An Evening With Smokey Robinson, an hour-long, PBS-TV live-to-tape interview program provided 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 featured 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 featured musical tributes from Grammy Award nominated artists Teena Marie, Howard Hewett, and Musiq Soulchild. To conclude the program, Smokey Robinson performed his hit song “Cruisin’” with the evening’s three musical guests.
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, an honorary doctorate from Howard University, and the National Medal of Arts Award from President George W. Bush. 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 started 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.”
Robinson then turned to a solo career where he continued his tradition of hit making with “Just to See Her,” “Quiet Storm,” “Cruisin’,” and “Being with You,” among others. 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, he remains a beloved icon in our musical heritage.
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, she 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 NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. In October of 2004, Ifill became the first African American woman to moderate a vice presidential debate. Her first book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was published in 2009.
In 2011, Ifill served as the moderator for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. She 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, Quincy Jones, Eartha Kitt and Smokey Robinson for The HistoryMakers annual PBS-TV An Evening With…series.
Ifill passed away in 2016.
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