Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Smokey Robinson at 83: ‘I Don’t Even Think About Being Old’

The Motown legend dishes on his life and his sexy new album ‘Gasms’

spinner image smokey robinson on the red carpet at the american music awards at the microsoft theater at l a live in los angeles
Smokey Robinson at the 2022 American Music Awards held at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live on Nov. 20, 2022 in Los Angeles.
Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images

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!

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

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.

spinner image smokey robinson performs with stevie wonder at the 65th grammy awards in los angeles
Smokey Robinson performs onstage during the 65th GRAMMY Awards at Arena on Feb. 5, 2023 in Los Angeles.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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.

spinner image smokey robinson sitting in front of a microphone during his visit to sirius x m studios in new york city
Smokey Robinson visits SiriusXM Studios on April 26, 2023 in New York City.
Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

You’ve always looked great. What is your secret to aging with attitude?

I love you, Gill! I don’t want to be old — that’s my secret. I want to be as young and vibrant as I possibly can for as long as I possibly can. I don’t even think about being old. That doesn’t even come into my psyche. I feel as good, if not better, than I did when I was 50. So age hasn’t affected me to the point where I’m thinking, Well it’s time for me to sit in a rocking chair now and kick back. So I just try and keep that frame of mind.

Shopping & Groceries


$20 off a Walmart+ annual membership

See more Shopping & Groceries offers >

What’s an average day in your life look like?

I am an early riser for many reasons because I used to run all the time. I’ve had arthroscopic surgery on both my knees now — I used to run all the time, and I got to the point where I was attempting to run marathons. I attempted three, and I made one. So I used to get up at 5 every morning to run. I had a pact with myself that I had to run at least 5 miles, no matter what I had done the night before. But I’m also a golfer, and golf gets you up early too. Golf is addicting. It’s the most addicting sport — and I’ve tried all of them. If you call me at 5 a.m. and say, “Let’s play some golf,” I’m there. But if you call me at 5 a.m. and say, “Let’s go play some baseball,” I’m gonna hang up on you. In the afternoons, I’ll work on my social media projects and take care of some business or stay home and watch TV. I also have a great dog, a white English Lab, and I play with him. But I like to go to bed early. So I’m an early riser and an early sleeper.

You’ve always been an early riser?Yes, ever since I was a teenager. By the time it was 11 p.m. or midnight, I was ready for bed, even on the weekends. My dad taught me to drive when I was 10, and when I turned 16, he built me a car. He was a master mechanic and went to the junkyard, got a body of a ’47 Ford and some partial motor cars, and put a car together for me. So I had a car, and on the weekends, if there was a party, I would pick up all my buddies and we’d go. But come 11 p.m., I’d be going round the party, telling everyone I wanted to go home. But I’ve always wanted to go to bed early and get up early.

Sounds like you missed the drugs portion of the sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.

Well, I tried that too, but that didn’t work for me either. I’m glad the drugs didn’t work for me, because I don’t want to be into that. But I tried it for sure. And I was strung out for a minute. But I got healed, so I’m fine now.

spinner image smokey robinson with his wife frances gladney at the kentucky derby in louisville kentucky
Frances Gladney and Smokey Robinson (right) attend the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2023 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Churchill Downs

And you’re in the wine business too?

Yes, we had a winery in Pittsburgh because my wife, Frances, was born there. She introduced me to a couple of her friends, and they convinced me to go into the wine business in 2017. Now we have a vineyard in Napa Valley and another in Italy. But it did start in Pittsburgh.

Are you a big wine drinker?

No, I’m not a drinker at all. So it was ironic to me — but our wines are milder than their counterparts from other companies. I got in from the ground floor. I didn’t want them to put my name on some existing wine and just say “OK, here’s Smokey Robinson wine.” So I tasted grapes and made all kinds of stuff for about 18 months before we even came up with the first bottles. I made it mild for people like me who don’t really drink. It’s very good. Occasionally I will have some wine and, when I do, I want it to be low-alcohol.

spinner image membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.

Where is home today?

I live in Los Angeles basically, but we have homes in Pittsburgh and Las Vegas.

Who is your favorite artist?

Oh gosh, I couldn’t tell you my favorite. I listen to everyone. I love music. I grew up in a home where there was all kinds of music all day, every day. I grew up hearing the most gutbucket blues and all the other blues. I had two older sisters who played Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra, and also bebop, like Dizzy Gillespie. And then my mother played gospel music by the Five Blind Boys. And other times, she would only play classical music, so I’d only hear Beethoven, Chopin or Rachmaninoff. So I listen to everyone. I listen to all my peers but also to the younger people, because they always have a grip on the market. So I gotta hear what they’re doing if I want to be in the record business and compete with them.

Can you share any advice on how we can all stay as youthful as you?

Yes, I do. Keep yourself in as good shape as you possibly can — but don’t think about being old. When you think you’re old, that’s when it happens to you. They say grow old gracefully — but I’m not gonna do that. So just think young and be young, because it’s a frame of mind. Age is just a number. So use your number to your best advantage.

Download/stream Robinson’s Gasms and check him out on tour:

  • 7/8: Milwaukee, Wisconsin — Summerfest
  • 7/19: Costa Mesa, California — OC Fair
  • 7/27: Meridian, Mississippi — MSU Riley Center
  • 7/29: Biloxi, Mississippi — Beau Rivage Casino
  • 8/5: Detroit, Michigan — Fox Theatre
  • 8/19: Pala, California — Pala Casino Resort
  • 11/3: Chandler, Arizona — Wild Horse Pass Casino

This article is part of a collaboration with Senior Planet from AARP and OATS (Older Adults Technology Services from AARP).

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?