[5] Smokey Robinson And The Miracles, ‘The Tracks Of My Tears’

Robinson always hit big at his most lachrymose – take this and the more sprightly, but no less woe-is-me, ‘The Tears Of A Clown’, where he repeats the attempt to convince his lost or would-be paramour that he may look as if he’s having a whale of a time but underneath he’s all sensitive and new-man and that, honest. It’s just a brave face. Yes, love, I may be out carousing with the lads, sinking 12 pints and bouncing off the walls, but really the old smile’s out of place. I’m sad. Sadder than sad.

And he pulls it off, no sweat. It’s odd to assess records that are established standards. There’s no question that Smokey’s tears melted the world’s heart, so I don’t need to dwell on how he did the trick, and the melody’s a winner because everyone knows it. It’s a simple rising scale with blaring brass to underline his bawls and – presumably – the seriousness of what he’s saying. Just look at his face.

But the ultimate test of a lyric’s success is its effect on a two-year-old. Look it up; it’s in the textbooks. Junior bounds around the room, twirling and skipping. It’s way off-tempo, off-message, off-putting. Robinson’s demeanour worked for her, and she won’t listen to any of his contradictions.