Smokey Robinson Remembers Longtime Friend Aretha Franklin: 'Aretha Was My Ace'

Catherine McGann/Getty Images
Aretha Franklin hugs Smokey Robinson at a rehearsal for the "Aretha Franklin: Duets" concert to benefit the Gay Men's Health Crisis at the Nederlander Theater in April 1993 in New York City.

Smokey Robinson and Aretha Franklin grew up together in a Detroit neighborhood that raised a number of music's brightest stars, including Diana Ross, the Temptations and the Four Tops. Robinson grew in his career alongside his pal, the Queen of Soul, who passed away Thursday (Aug. 16) following a battle with pancreatic cancer. 

“I talked to Aretha maybe five weeks ago or so and her plan was, she was gonna retire from doing performances, but she was always going to record,” Robinson told CBS This Morning. “She said, ‘Smoke, I’m just not going to do any more dates, but I’m always going to record.'”

“It was always wonderful to do anything with Aretha,” he continued, sharing memories of his duet partner. “Aretha was, like I said, my ace. We were really, really close, and to do anything with her was a joy.”

Robinson knew his friend deeper than her diva stage presence, and recalled her sense of humor and cooking skills to Good Morning America Friday morning. In fact, he said they almost never discussed the entertainment industry. “We always had a relationship that almost had nothing to do with show business,” he said. “There were a lot of us in that neighborhood, and those of us who were blessed enough to get our wish, or our dream, to be in show business — we just always had regular relationships. We very seldom, when we got together, even talked about show business.” 

See below.