After being presented with the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award at the 12th annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert Thursday evening, Smokey Robinson talked about being “so blessed to live a life I absolutely love.” The singer-songwriter also remembered the “darkest part of his life” as he referenced his deep-rooted commitment to the MAP Fund, which provides addiction recovery treatment to members of the music community regardless of their financial situation.
“I’m not talking from outside of this,” Robinson declared. “I was an addict for two and a half years.” He then recalled meeting singer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds several years ago during a chance encounter at a dry cleaner. “I was so high that day,” said Robinson, “that I don’t remember what I said to Kenny. I never got a chance to apologize to him, so I’m doing that tonight. Those two and a half years were the darkest part of my life. Now I’m a warrior against drugs.”
It wasn’t the first time the audience inside the Novo by Microsoft in downtown Los Angeles had cheered that evening. Prior to being presented with his award by actress Angela Bassett, Robinson had been serenaded with his own songs by a diverse slate of performers. The Backstreet Boys kicked off the concert with a cappella versions of “Cruisin’” and “You Really Got a Hold on Me.” Additional performers included Babyface, Kem, Cee Lo Green, El DeBarge, Tamar Braxton and Andra Day.
Keeping things moving as the host was comedian Cedric the Entertainer. Noting that Robinson started his career in high school, the comedian told the crowd that the singing legend “today would be the equivalent of Young Thug.”
Calling Robinson “the soul of Motown,” the label’s founder Berry Gordy reflected on Robinson’s determination and perseverance at the start of his storied career. “I saw a writer willing to absorb all of my criticism. And to my dismay he became a better songwriter than me — at times. We made a vow to never let anything in life come between us and in more than 50 years, nothing has.”
Capping the evening: a mini-concert by Robinson himself. He led the audience in a sing-along of “Being With You,” “Just to See Her,” “My Girl” and “Tracks of My Tears.” Among those spotted dancing and singing along was Magic Johnson. Attendees also included entertainment attorney John Branca, Recording Academy and MusiCares president/CEO Neil Portnow and MusiCares chair Bill Silva.