The Motown legend will be the eighth recipient of the award, joining a group of luminaries that includes Willie Nelson, Billy Joel, Carole King, the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.
“It gives me such joy and gratitude to be included among the past recipients of this most prestigious songwriting award,” Robinson said in a statement issued by the Library of Congress.
Acting Librarian of Congress, David Mao, added: “As a singer, songwriter, producer and record executive, Smokey Robinson is a musical legend. His rich melodies are works of art — enduring, meaningful and powerful. And he is a master at crafting lyrics that speak to the heart and soul, expressing ordinary themes in an extraordinary way. It is that quality in his music that makes him one of the greatest poetic songwriters of our time.”
Robinson will receive the Gershwin Prize in Washington D.C. in November. Previous Gershwin Prize events have featured performances from the recipient, as well as other musical guests.
Robinson has made countless contributions to the American pop songbook during his storied career, starting with his first hit with the Miracles, 1961’s “Shop Around.” The tune became the first Motown song to sell one million copies, and marked the beginning of a fruitful relationship between Robinson and label founder, Berry Gordy.
Along with further hits for the Miracles like “Tracks of My Tears,” “I Second That Emotion” and “Going to a Go-Go,” Robinson penned countless smashes for other Motown artists including “My Girl” and “The Way You Do the Things You Do” for the Temptations, “My Guy” for Mary Wells and “Ain’t That Peculiar” for Marvin Gaye. Robinson would also serve as a producer and talent scout for Motown, as well as the label’s vice president for nearly three decades.
In the early Seventies, Robinson left the Miracles and embarked on a solo career. While the pop hits weren’t as plentiful as they were in the Sixties, Robinson remained an innovator, effectively creating a new style of powerful but sensual R&B with his 1975 album, A Quiet Storm. In 1987, Robinson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1988 he won his first Grammy, for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for the single, “Just to See Her,” off his album, One Heartbeat.