The guitarist (top right) for Motown stars Smokey Robinson and the Miracles passed away at 70 of undisclosed causes. As an original member of the Miracles, Tarplin co-penned hits like "Tracks of My Tears" and "My Girl Has Gone," and toured alongside Robinson until retiring in 2008.
"I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime," Claudette Robinson tells Billboard
Smokey Robinson got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Now the rest of his Motown group, the Miracles, are happy to be joining him at this year's induction ceremony on Saturday in Cleveland.
"I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime," Claudette Robinson, who replaced her brother, Emerson "Sonny" Rogers, in the group during 1957 and married Smokey in 1959 (they divorced in 1986), tells Billboard.com. "For the longest time so many people have put in their comments and tried so hard for us to be inducted, and there was always a reason we weren't. So I was a little shocked when they called and said it would happen."
The group's Warren "Pete" Moore, who co-write many of the Miracles hits with Smokey Robinson as well as material for the Temptations and Marvin Gaye, calls the induction "kind of bittersweet thing. We are elated that we're finally being inducted. We are overwhelmed by it. But on the other hand we feel this is something that should have been done some time ago. But it's finally happening, and we appreciate it. Like the old saying goes, better late than never."
The Miracles will be inducted -- by Robinson -- as part of a package of groups that James Brown's Famous Flames, Hank Ballard's Midnighters, Bill Haley's Comets, Buddy Holly's Crickets and Gene Vincent Blue Caps, an initiative by the Rock Hall to right what fans have considered wrongful omissions over the years. "When I spoke to (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum President and CEO) Terry Stewart, he said he got no less than 900 e-mails per day saying the Miracles should be included, and why aren't they?" Claudette Robinson says. "I was surprised by that. I would think five or 10, but he said that amount, so it's a lot of people that were really pulling for us. You have to be thankful and grateful for that."
Smokey Robinson had previously told Billboard.com that he's been lobbying for the Miracles since his own induction -- "making calls and signing petitions and everything, because they really deserve it." Some feel Robinson should also be inducted with the group this weekend, but he says that, "I don't really even care about that. I'm already in there. I don't understand why it was, like, a task to get the Miracles in there. We were one of the hottest and most prolific groups in the world at that time, so I don't understand the hesitancy."
The Miracles -- initially called the Five Chimes and then the Matadors -- formed during 1955 at Detroit's Northwestern High School and were part of Berry Gordy's initial roster at Motown, where Smokey Robinson became a vice-president. The group scored more than 50 hit singles between 1959-78, including Motown's first million-selling single, 1960's "Shop Around," as well as "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "Mickey's Monkey," "Ooo Baby Baby," "The Tracks of My Tears" and "The Tears of a Clown." It became Smokey Robinson & the Miracles in 1965, and the group continued after Robinson left in 1972, even scoring a subsequent No. 1 hit with the disco anthem "Love Machine" in 1975. The Miracles, as a group, received a Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and it's been inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame. Several of its hits are also in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Claudette Robinson acknowledges that while "Smokey always loomed large over the Miracles," the other members "have never been envious, never tried to take away any of his acclaim and fame. I think they've always been very happy for him." But she and Moore, who's hosting a pre-induction party on Friday night in Cleveland, are happy that the induction of Miracles -- including the ailing Bobby Rogers and, posthumously, Ronnie White and guitarist Marv Tarplin -- will tell what they feels is the rest of the story.
"When the Miracles began, it was five people who were out there," Robinson says, "not one working any harder than the other. One may have had more lyrics that the were singing, but then somebody else had more dance steps. There was just such a cohesiveness of five people coming together and doing something they loved -- and never dreaming it would go as far as it did. I wish that this (induction) had come at an earlier time so everyone was alive and able to participate, but it will still be sweet, and I'll carry the torch for whoever can't get there."