Song 278: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965)

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I know this is something I shouldn’t admit, but much of Motown leaves me cold. I respect and admire it, and I understand why it’s considered great, but a lot of it doesn’t do much for me. (Much of this may be because of Baby Boomer overload; from Murphy Brown to The Big Chill, those goddamn boomers couldn’t shut their yaps about Motown.)

There are some major exceptions to this opinion, one of which is the great Smokey Robinson. “The Tracks of My Tears” is one of my favorite songs, and I’ve been delaying this post because I can’t think of a way to describe the reasons. I do know that I love Marv Tarplin’s simple guitar intro, a beautifully subtle phrase that effortlessly introduces us to the smooth, smooth, smooth song that is “The Tracks of My Tears.” The song isn’t exactly easygoing—this is a sad love ballad, after all—but it sure goes down easy, helped along by Smokey’s falsetto and the Miracles’ effortless vocals.

I’d like to know how this song was written, because there are so many sections—including the wonderful break that concludes with the synocpated line, “My smile is my makeup I wear since my breakup with you”—that seem to come out of nowhere. It’s a gorgeous piece of music, one that almost makes me believe that Baby Boomers know what they’re talking about. Almost.

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