Billy Griffin is an extremely talented singer/songwriter who first came to the public's attention by taking on the toughest job in music. When Smokey Robinson left the Miracles to pursue a solo career, Griffin was chosen as his replacement. To the world, Smokey Robinson was the Miracles, so the expectation was that the group would soon fade from view and Billy Griffin would become a rock and roll footnote. However, the group's talent and the addition of Griffin were both underestimated. Billy turned out not only to possess a seductive falsetto, but also great songwriting skills. This became most evident in the group's first post-Smokey #1 single, "Love Machine," which became the biggest Miracles single ever. Griffin was also behind the writing of the Miracles' 1976 concept album City of Angels. The Miracles continued to record and chart for another 8 years after Griffin's arrival.
In 1982, Billy went solo, releasing his Columbia album, Be With Me. While only a modest success in the U.S., the infectious single, "Hold Me Tighter In The Rain," was a smash in Europe and was one of the best dance singles of the year. He followed in 1983 with Respect, which contained his first solo U.S. hit, "Serious." Through both albums, Griffin's work with producer John Barnes - who later worked with Michael Jackson - provided a bridge from the then-dying disco era to the 80s dance sound that Jackson popularized in Thriller and Bad. Griffin then teamed with Leon Ware to record the critically acclaimed Systematic in 1985. He later moved to Atlantic to record the single "Believe It Or Not," but never released an album there.
Griffin reappeared in the early 90s working with British producer Ian Levine on a series of revival albums for former Motown artists. Some of his demo songs from this work resulted in an unauthorized (and low quality) album being sold on the internet called The Best of Billy Griffin. Griffin and Levine subsequently worked with British band Take That and the Pasadenas. Billy also provided vocals to various projects, including Gerald Albright's sumptuous "And You Don't Even Know."
After two decades out of the studio, in 2007 Griffin returned with Like Water, an enjoyable disc that showed he still "had it" as both a singer and a songwriter. It was a moderate hit in Europe but didn't receive the attention it deserved in the US. A year later, UK label Expansion Records released the most definitive collection of Griffin's material -- including his work with the Miracles as well as his solo releases on Atlantic, Columbia and Expansion -- called Believe It Or Not. It was a welcome compilation of a notable career.
By Chris Rizik