By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
“Everybody was either in a group or a gang. Some were in both!”—Smokey Robinson
I thought that I would just casually and quickly listen to the “Greatest Music of All Time Podcast,” featuring the great Smokey Robinson. Man, was I surprised! I was mesmerized at the interview, which is hosted by podcast owner Tom Cridland. Cridland, who is a fashion designer, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster and singer/songwriter, has candid and uncensored conversations with cultural icons and public figures about current affairs, how they achieve their success and, of course, their favorite music.
As Smokey detailed all the intimate steps in his career, he shared that practically everyone on the Motown roster lived either on the block with Smokey or around the corner in Detroit—as he mentions the late Aretha Franklin, the Four Tops, whose original name was The Four Aims, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and The Temptations.
“I have been writing music since I was in grade school, and when myself and the Miracles went to audition for the Jackie Wilson Show, we were rejected,” Smokey said. “But the iconic Berry Gordy was in the room at the time and he hired the Miracles at that point. This was a ‘God Day,’ meaning that God had me in that room at that point, as well as Gordy being in the room on that particular day.” What followed has been a great career for Gordy, Motown and Smokey, as well as many other Motown acts.
Smokey reveals his admiration for Bob Dylan, who calls Smokey the greatest poet of all time. Smokey recounted how he first met Dylan. “When I reluctantly relocated from Detroit to Los Angeles, I ended up taking acting lessons and a girlfriend of Dylan was in the same class. Afterward, he and I became friends,” Smokey added.
During the podcast, Smokey said that the greatest album that he has ever bought has been Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” He spoke about how the songs on that album are even more poignant now. Smokey also talked about how some of his songs have been blockbusters for other groups, and that is just fine with him. Case in point, Smokey says, “The 1964 ‘My Girl’ was written for The Temptations, because I felt that David Ruffin could do justice as a lead on a song.” He went on to say that prior to that, most songs had featured Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams as lead singers on Temptations’ songs. And, as history has shown, the song has become an international hit for The Temptations and Smokey.
Smokey, the smooth as silk crooner, who has written a phenomenal 4,000 songs, is such a delightful interview subject, and his talk on the “Greatest Music of All Time” is a treat for those who decide to tune in.
I reached out to Cridland and asked about his background. He shared that the podcast has helped him to stay sober after a bout with serious alcoholism. “At rock bottom, my drinking had escalated to the point of consuming over 20 pints in single sessions; binge eating and putting on excessive weight; appearing drunk on national U.S. television and sustaining serious head injuries,” he said.
Cridland who makes a hybrid of rock n’ roll, pop and soul music. He did his first tour in 2019, playing a gig in all 48 contiguous U.S. states. This led to The Stylistics hearing about him and inviting him to tour with them later on this year, Cridland said.
He added that viewers should enjoy the podcasts. “I hope people will enjoy hearing candid conversation with some of the greatest musicians of all time and some of the most interesting public figures in the world. I feel like we’ve got unique conversations with everyone from Smokey Robinson to David Crosby.”
Cridland mentioned that his interview with Don McLean was enlightening, in that McLean covered a wide range of topics. “His [McLean’s] recent interview on everything from COVID-19 to climate change to Cardi B was pretty explosive!”
Here is just a short list of past episodes, with quotes from the superstars:
- Annie Lennox: “I felt a bit hammered by the music press.”
- David Crosby: “Rick Rubin is a fake. He’s not a good producer. He’s a poser.”
- Steve Lukather of Toto: “When I die, I might finally get a bit of respect.”
- Smokey Robinson: “Everybody was either in a group or a gang. Some were in both!”
- Sir Cliff Richard: “John Lennon thought I was pretty cool.”
- Chance the Rapper: “We all just work and work and work.”
- Don McLean: “[Modern music] is repetitive, lacks substance and means nothing.”
- David Guetta: “I only knew how to work from my laptop.”
The Temptations, Tito Jackson of The Jackson 5, Pixies, The Pointer Sisters, Seal, Earth, Wind & Fire, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kool & the Gang, Raphael Saadiq, The Stylistics, Gloria Estefan and Brian McKnight have also been featured in nearly 300 podcasts. You can watch/listen to Smokey’s interview here: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQvrCfzrWBw]. The complete podcast website is located at [https://linktr.ee/greatestmusicofalltime].