This group was formed originally by William (Smokey)
Robinson and Ronald White when they got together to sing while they were
attending school in Detroit, Michigan.
In 1955 they recruited another three singers and
formed the doo-wop ensemble The Five Chimes. Six months later they replaced two
of the members and changed their name to The Matadors. After their member, Emerson Rogers, had to leave for his military service in 1956
his sister Claudette took over and in 1959 she became Smokey
In 1958 they added a further member, Marv Taplin, and
they attended an audition with Jackie Wilson’s manager. They weren’t taken on by him
as they were considered to be too alike to The Platters but when they were
leaving they bumped into Berry Gordy Jr. He liked their sound and got them to
record his co-written “Got a Job”. This led to them landing a deal with
End Records and, because they had a woman in a group with a name that would
indicate a male ensemble, they changed their name to The Miracles.
Although the group made many recordings with several
scratching the surface of the Billboard charts, they saw little
return. Smokey Robinson
persuaded Berry Gordy Jr. to set up his own record company and in 1959 the
famed Tamla Motown was born.
The Miracles were one of the first groups signed up and
Smokey’s working relationship with Berry Gordy Jr. was such that
within two years he became the vice president of the company.
Although they recorded three singles that never made,
their “Shop Around” became the first single released by Tamla
Motown to sell in excess of a million and hit the top of the R&B
chart. This was the beginning
of a string of more than 50 chart hits over the next nineteen years with 16
hits including two No. 1s in the Billboard 100 chart and 26 hits with four
No. 1s in the Billboard R&B charts. They were also the first Motown
artist to hit the No. 1 spot in the UK. These hits included the well known
“Going to a Go-Go”, “I Second That Emotion”,
“Tears of a Clown”, “Tracks of My Tears” and
“You Really Got a Hold On Me”.
During the early to mid-1960s several problems befell
them such as Claudette taking over the singing for Smokey after he had
caught Asian Flu and Pete Moore had to serve his time in the US
military. Claudette left the
touring side of things in 1964 with a view to starting a family, but she
did still sing with them in the studio. In 1965 they became known as Smokey
Robinson & The Miracles although they still used The Miracles on their
recordings until 1967.
1970 came around and they had their own special on TV
called The Smokey Robinson Show with guest appearances from artists
such as Stevie Wonder and The Temptations but at the end of 1971 Smokey
made it public that he was leaving the group and embarked on a farewell
tour with them. On the
final show of the tour Billy Griffin was introduced as the new lead singer
and he also became one of their songwriters, co-writing their platinum single
and most successful hit, “Love Machine”, with Pete Moore.
The group parted from Motwon in 1977 and relocated to
Columbia Records, but this would not prove a successful move. Pete Moore and Billy Griffin went
off to pursue the songwriting side of their careers in 1978 and so the
remaining members, Bobby Rogers and Ronnie White, signed up Dave
Finley. They appeared on a TV
special about Motown with Smokey Robinson in 1983 but shortly after they
Ten years later there was a 35th
Anniversary celebration put on by Motown and so the three that were the
last singers in 1983 got back together again and added another member,
Sidney Justin. They began
touring again and after the death of Ronnie White in 1995 the remaining
trio continued singing together.
Many other artists covered their songs and/or used
them as an influence including The Beatles, The Hollies, The Rolling
Stones, The Who and The Zombies.
Receiving many awards they have had four of their
songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, had “Tracks of My
Tears” included in the Top 10 Best Songs of All Time by a
panel of producers and songwriters such as Paul McCartney, Hal David and
Brian Wilson, been given the Pioneer Award by the Rhythm & Blues
Foundation in 1997, four years later in 2001 they were inducted into the
Vocal Group Hall of Fame and in 2009 they had a star honouring them on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Still with a popular following into the 2000s, they
continue to perform with a line-up which includes with the occasional
return of Claudette Robinson and the addition of Tee Turner and Alphonse
Franklin. In 2006 DVD Smokey
Robinson & The Miracles: The Definitive Performances was released
with interviews with three of the original members, also in 2006 the name
Miracles Boulevard was given to one of the streets in Detroit in tribute,
and in 2007 the original members staged a re-union for their 50th
As of today it is estimated that The Miracles have
sold in excess of 40 million records in total.
Members throughout the years:
Claudette Robinson (Rogers)
The Miracles recordings
Love Machine (Part 1)/Love Machine (Part 2) (UK
Tamla Motown TMG 1015