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Miracles, The

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 Robinson’s wife.

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 Showwith 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 disbanded.

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 anniversary.

As of 2007 it was estimated that The Miracles have sold in excess of 40 million records in total and they also hold the record of having more songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame than any other Motown group.

In 2009 they were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in 2011 they were inducted into the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame, in 2012 they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame which was 25 years after Smokey was controversially inducted as a solo artist and in 2015 they were inducted into the Official Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame.

Some of the members throughout the years:
Dave Finley
Alphonse Franklin
Billy Griffin
Donald Griffin
Sidney Justin
Pete Moore
Claudette Robinson (Rogers)
Smokey Robinson
Bobby Rogers
Mark Scott
Marv Tarplin
Tee Turner
Ronnie White

The Miracles recordings
Love Machine (Part 1)/Love Machine (Part 2) (UK 45)
Tamla Motown TMG 1015