Not so obscure…

… except to me!

I was reading the paper last Sunday morning with CBC radio in the background.  My attention was suddenly drawn to the song being played.  I didn’t recognize the song but the singer was very familiar.  When it concluded the host announced that this was a song by Smokey Robinson, who would to be a featured performer at the Toronto Jazz Festival in June.   Few performers have enjoyed his longevity- an inspiration and  song source for the early Beatles and still recording (most recent album 2009) and performing.  He and the Miracles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 (25 years after his induction as a solo artist!)

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles  (as a group) were inducted in 2012.
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (as a group) were inducted in 2012.

The song I heard that morning was Just to See Her.  I can attest to my ignorance of the song but not suggest it would qualify as obscure.  It rose to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, #2 on the R & B chart and #1 in the Adult Contemporary chart in 1987.  The album (One Heartbeat) was a million seller and the song also earned Robinson a Grammy in 1988.  So… not obscure!

If the song was unfamiliar, the structure wasn’t.  What caught my attention was the chord sequence of the song.  It was a pattern which I’ve always appreciated …    The verse begins (me playing for illustation purposes) in A major-

The pattern repeats in the chorus (but transposed into C major)-

The four chords (essentially… with a couple of transitional chords) which form this song are repeated in the coda but transposed into Eb major (with a bit more instrumentation)-

So… this is what I heard on the radio that morning…

Now you can certainly hear the trademark “Smokey” voice as well as recognize the 80’s vibe in the arrangement.  If in any doubt about the “eightiesness”, here’s the original video of the song-

Four-chord songs are not at all unusual… heck, one- or two-chord songs are common too.  But readers of this blog should recognize the pattern from other posts.  Remember Magic Town?

Notice the same four chords starting the chorus of the song in above clip.

And I’ve even borrowed the same pattern in a song or two of my own… check out Writing Our Lives from my In the Mood post.

There’s lots on Smokey to be found on the internet (so go crazy if you like)… but you might enjoy this tribute song by ABC which came out the same year as Just to See Her (and I do remember When Smokey Sings!)

 

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