Rogers was born in Detroit in February 1940, in the same hospital and on the same day as William “Smokey” Robinson. Sixteen years later, he joined Robinson in forming the Miracles with his cousin Claudette Rogers, Pete Moore and Ronnie White. In 1957, the group met Berry Gordy Jr. and soon became a staple in the record producer’s rising Motown empire.
The Miracles’ first big hit, 1960’s “Shop Around,” reached Number Two on the Hot 100, and became the first Motown record to sell a million copies. The group followed it up with a long catalog of classics, including “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me” (with Rogers singing two-part harmony on the lead with Robinson), “Ooo Baby Baby,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” and “I Second That Emotion.” After Robinson left the group in 1972, Rogers continued touring with other members into the 1990s. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
Rogers’ voice can also be heard among the speaking voices in the introduction to Marvin Gaye’s hit “What’s Going On,” saying “It’s just a groovy party, man, I can dig it.”
“If people want to remember him, they should put that record on and listen to Bobby,” the Supremes’ Mary Wilson told the Free Press. “That’s who he was.”