For many of us, Smokey Robinson provided the soundtrack to our youth with hits like “The Tracks of My Tears" and “The Tears of a Clown.” At 83, after writing over 4,000 songs and earning an avalanche of honors from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress and Bob Dylan, who called him “America’s greatest living poet,” Robinson is still going strong — and back on the road with a new album, Gasms. He tells AARP about the record, bouncing back from COVID, and how he stays healthy and creative.
Congratulations on your 26th studio album, Gasms. Tell us about that title.
I was at the piano one day, and I wanted to write something controversial. And I thought about gasms, because “gasm” is a controversial word. And most people, when you say “gasms,” they go right to “orgasm” as the first gasm. It might be the most important one anyway!
Do you hope Gasms might help get older folk back in the bedroom?
Yes! Because when people get to be a certain age, they can lose their desire to have sex or make love. That’s never happened to me! I want to make it clear — that’s never happened to me. I think people have a misconception about people over 60, thinking once you get to that age that you’re done. Especially in today’s world, where people who are 60 are now like 30. We’ve got all kinds of health stuff and treatments that we didn’t have years ago. When I was a kid, a person of 60 was kind of old — but not now.
How do you keep fit for touring again?
I work out all the time, whether I’m going on the road or not. I just want to keep myself as fit as I possibly can. And I’ve been doing yoga for about 40 years. So I try and take care of myself because the road can be grueling. Life itself can be grueling, so I just want to be in as good health as I possibly can. But I’m never off the road, honey. It’s just that we have a new album out, but we tour all the time.
And you also meditate?
I don’t meditate like I used to. I used to do transcendental meditation, but that’s what got me off into doing yoga. And I found that by doing yoga and relaxing my body that way, I didn’t have to do the meditation anymore.
Do you have a strict diet?
I haven’t had any red meat like beef, pork or lamb since 1972, although I still eat fish and chicken. For about five years, I was actually a vegan. But then I got sick with COVID, and I was hospitalized for about 11 days. And when I came home, my wife, Frances, started sneaking fish and chicken into my meals. I wasn't paying attention because I was still out of it. COVID keeps you out for a while. So I began eating chicken and fish again, but then there are so many plant-based meats nowadays. There’s a plant-based meat for almost every kind of meat you can think of. So I’m in pretty good shape because of those things.