To commemorate Smokey Robinson’s 50 years of music, Smokey and Shepard Fairey have just put their signatures on two limited edition prints created by Fairey. The limited edition prints will be released to coincide with Smokey’s Keynote Address in Austin at SXSW Festival on March 18th. There will be two print editions available in two different colorways and will be made available in person March 18th at the SXSW Festival’s Flatstock Poster Show and the Obey Giant Store. Smokey will make a special appearance at the Flatstock booth to celebrate the release and has a concert scheduled for the following evening at the festival’s Austin Music Hall venue.
Growing up, my parents didn’t listen to a lot of cool music, but they were into the Beatles and Motown, and introduced me to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. As a little kid, when I heard a song on the radio I just thought of it as music, not the work of an actual person. Smokey Robinson and Paul McCartney were the first people I remember associating directly with songs. I always dug Smokey’s music, but later found out that he played a major role in the Motown label itself—he was vice president for almost 30 years—and wrote great songs for other artists, including Mary Wells, The Temptations, The Four Tops and Marvin Gaye. (You should also check out The English Beat’s cover of “Tears of a Clown.”) Bob Dylan once called Smokey “America’s greatest living poet.”
I was amazed when Smokey contacted me to do a portrait to commemorate his 50 years in the music business, and a little nostalgic at the thought of his impact on me as a kid. I made two illustrations: one of Smokey at the dawn of the ‘70s, showing off his Black Power fashion sense of the moment; and another of him in the early ‘90s.
After the prints came back from the printer, Smokey came into the studio to hang out and sign them. He’s a really nice, upbeat guy who has a real lust for life – maybe that’s why he looks like he hasn’t aged in 30 years. Believe it or not, Smokey signed every single print with his very beautiful and painstaking signature. It’s worth picking up a print for that alone.