David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 163: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (The Tracks Of My Tears)

July 11, 2022

In 1976, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles rereleased two of their best known songs together: "The Tears Of A Clown" paired with "The Tracks Of My Tears." For the life of me, it seems that very few people prior to then, or since then, have really talked about how similar the lyrical vein is for the two songs.

Without the tune in your head, you might struggle to remember which line goes with which song:

"You'll see my smile looks out of place" vs. "if there's a smile on my face/it's only there to fool the public."

"Outside I'm masquerading/inside my hope is fading/just a clown" vs. "don't let my glad expression/give you the wrong impression."

"Deep inside I'm blue" vs. "in my lonely room I cry."

Far be it for me, as someone who worships at the altar of Morrissey, to criticize Robinson for basically writing the same lyrical content for two different songs, but I find this lack of comparison over the course of 50+ years (given my very limited knowledge) kind of surprising.

"The Tears Of A Clown" came later (released in 1970 although recorded in 1967) than "The Tracks Of My Tears" (released in 1965 when The Miracles were just that, no extra billing for Smokey). "The Tears Of A Clown" did much better (#1) than "The Tracks Of My Tears" (#16), although generally the latter is recognized as the "better" song in the canon.

For me, even if the lyrics seem quickly reproduced, the music for both is significantly different. Certainly the calliope type sound in "The Tears Of A Clown" lends itself naturally to the lyrical content; however, the beauty of "The Tracks Of My Tears" is precisely in the instrumentation, supplied in both cases by the infamous Funk Brothers, the rather mysterious Motown session men found on so many of the classic Motown hits. The snare drum and hi-hat surround the wonderful guitar riff so perfectly, while also emphasizing the horns. All of it allows the miracle of the Miracles' voices to act as additional "instruments."

To write this blog, I went looking to discover the specific Funk brother on the drum here. He wasn't easy to find. In the end, I discover it was Uriel Jones, who isn't even given the honor of having an actual picture on his Wikipedia page. Luckily, once I had his name, I could find plenty of pictures, including this one which probably comes from his heyday. Jones did not play on "The Tears Of A Clown," much to that song's loss if I may say so.

The instrumentation on all of the old Motown songs can so often be missed behind the incredible vocals and melodies that those artists produced. According to one interview with Jones, "you could almost say the musicians did the arrangements,"which might be heresy within the church that was Motown studios. In the end, I hope all Funk Brothers were compensated well, but I wonder if their smiles were just as deceiving as that sung by the incredible voice fronting them.

1"Uriel Jones: Architect of the Motown Sound." Modern Drummer. August 2009. https://www.moderndrummer.com/2011/06/uriel-jones-architect-of-the-motown-sound/  Retrieved 23 June 2022.

The Miracles. "The Tracks Of My Tears." Going To A Go-Go. Tamla, 1965. Link here.

Day 162: The Blue Aeroplanes "The Applicant."

Day 164: Bob Dylan "Brownsville Girl."

See complete list here.