The Story Behind the Song: "Cruisin" by Smokey Robinson

Publisher's Note: As a special treat for SoulTrackers, Jo-Ann Geffen, co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song," a great book that includes interviews with artists about the makings of many now-classic songs, has agreed to share with us some of the stories from the book (which is now available as an e book at Amazon.com), including this one about the Commodores. To check the book out, click on the cover to the right

SMOKEY ROBINSON - "CRUISIN"

Publisher's Note: As a special treat for SoulTrackers, Jo-Ann Geffen, co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song," a great book that includes interviews with artists about the makings of many now-classic songs, has agreed to share with us some of the stories from the book (which is now available as an e book at Amazon.com), including this one about the Commodores. To check the book out, click on the cover to the right

SMOKEY ROBINSON - "CRUISIN"

Many, if not most, of my hits have been written based on music by Marv Tauplin  and played on his guitar. He would give me a tape that I would listen to over and over until I got an idea for a song that went with that music. He’s so good and so prolific. We’ve been working together and have been close friends since 1961. He played with Diana (Ross)  and I asked if I could “borrow” him for a gig and from then on he was in my band -- until 2008. Diana reminds me every time I see her.

When he gave me this particular tape of music, I loved it. It was so sensual, so sexy. It did something to my soul. I played it forever – in my car, when I got home, over and over. I wrote two or three other songs to that music but they didn’t work. Nothing fit this music. This song came in bits and pieces. “Cruisin’” took five years to write. Some songs come quicker than others, like “Shop Around.” That was the first million seller at Motown and I wrote it in thirty minutes.

One night I was listening to the music again and thought about how it was ethereal, making you soar:

You’re gonna fly away, glad you’re going my way.  I love it….. 

Then I tried figuring out where to go from there – “‘cause we’re going together”? That wasn’t it. Why do I love it?

I was driving down Sunset Boulevard, after I moved to Los Angeles,  and a record I loved by a group called the Rascals came on the radio. It was “Groovin’”.

Groovin’…on a Sunday afternoon 

That’s it!

I love it… when we’re groovin’ with each other? 

No. I liked the sound of “groovin’.” What sounds like that? Cruisin’! 

I love it… when we’re cruisin’ together. 

Then I wrote the rest of the song. I was glad that I came up with something I’d never heard before.  I try to say things differently. When I wrote “Tracks Of My Tears” I listened to Marvin(Taupin)’s music and came up with 

Take a good look at my face. You’ll see my smile looks out of place

It was going to be about my smile looking out of place.

If you look closer, it’s easy to trace 

I was thinking, “I miss you so much.” “I have to find you.” “My smile is crooked.” “You don’t love me anymore.” Nothing rang a bell. Then I realized there are many, many songs about crying, but what if a person cried so much that the tears left tracks on their face? That was it: “The Tracks Of My Tears.”

People always come up and ask me, “What’s “Cruisin’”? What does that mean?”  My reply is always the same, “Whatever you want it to be.”

 

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