CWRU to award honorary degree to legendary singer-songwriter-producer, Smokey Robinson

Presentation opens 20th Annual Music Masters tribute concert on Nov. 7, presented with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Smokey Robinson Music Masters flyerCase Western Reserve University will award an honorary degree to William “Smokey” Robinson to open the 20th Annual Music Masters Series tribute concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, at PlayhouseSquare’s State Theatre honoring the lifetime contributions of the legendary R&B and soul singer-songwriter, producer and talent scout.

In conferring an honorary degree, Case Western Reserve recognizes those whose work exemplifies the highest ideals and standards of excellence in any valued aspect of human endeavor, including scholarship, public service and the performing arts. The honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree acknowledges Robinson’s many musical and cultural contributions, which extend from enduring songs to his leadership in the music industry.

“Smokey Robinson began working with Berry Gordy in the 1950s even before Motown Records existed, and has continued to make extraordinary music ever since,” President Barbara R. Snyder said. “His voice and lyrics captured joy, heartbreak and many other emotions that comprise the human condition. His story is testament to the power of talent, combined with dedication and support.”

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987—the Rock Hall’s second year—Robinson is widely considered one of the most influential popular music artists of the 20th century, creatively combining pop music with early rock and roll and gospel.

Among the most prolific and successful songwriters of the 1960s, Robinson was among the first artists to record at the Detroit-based recording empire known as Motown Records. Robinson and the Miracles scored 27 pop-soul hits at Motown from 1960-71, including such classics as “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Shop Around,” “Going to a Go-Go,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “The Tears of a Clown” and “I Second That Emotion.”

In addition to fronting the Miracles, Robinson served as a Motown vice president for several years, producing, writing and scouting for talent as Berry Gordy Jr.’s most trusted confidant and right-hand man.

Robinson wrote hit songs for Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas, the Supremes, the Four Tops and countless others. In 2006, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame; he received a Kennedy Center Honor the same year.

Rolling Stone magazine, in featuring Robinson as one of the world’s 100 greatest singers of all time (No. 20), described his unique style this way: “His high, delicate delivery marked him as not so much a tenor as a male soprano, able to glide into a heartbreaking falsetto that remains one of the most distinctive sounds of 20th-century pop.”

Paul McCartney once marveled: “Smokey Robinson was like God in our eyes.”

“Conferring an honorary degree on Smokey Robinson is a singular form of recognition for one of the great multi-faceted entertainers of our time,” said Daniel Goldmark, director of the Center for Popular Music Studies at Case Western Reserve.

Robinson will be the honoree at the 2015 Annual Music Masters Series, a 20-year collaboration between the Rock Hall and Case Western Reserve that combines scholarly and popular approaches to rock and roll history in a unique program that reflects the educational mission of the museum and of the university’s Center for Popular Music Studies.

Since the center’s creation in 2012, Case Western Reserve has become internationally known in the rapidly growing academic field of popular music studies, due, in part, to its many ongoing collaborations with the Rock Hall—including the Music Masters Series.

The tribute concert culminates a weeklong celebration (Nov. 2-7) of the life and legacy of Robinson, who will attend to accept the award, but is not scheduled to perform.

Other featured events include a keynote lecture, “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” by famed rock journalist Dave Marsh on Thursday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. at Case Western Reserve’s Tinkham Veale University Center Ballroom. The event is free and reservations are not required.

A conference on Robinson’s life and legacy, organized in partnership with the Rock Hall, will be held Saturday, Nov. 7, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., in the Rock Hall’s Foster Theater. Tickets are $25 and are available at For a full list of events scheduled Nov. 2-7, visit

Tickets to the Nov. 7 tribute concert range from $30 to $100 and are available at the PlayhouseSquare box office by calling 216.241.6000, or by visiting A limited number of premium seating and VIP packages beginning at $300 are available by contacting the Rock Hall’s development office at 216.515.1201 or by Friday, Oct. 30.