You are currently viewing The artist George Harrison called one of the best songwriters: “He is fantastic”

The artist George Harrison called one of the best songwriters: “He is fantastic”

It’s safe to say that The Beatles did more for rock and roll than almost any other band of their generation. There were incredible artists that had come before them, but the barriers they broke down in terms of what could be done whenever someone went into a studio are still being felt by every artist who came after them. Every member usually had artists like Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley records to fall back on, but George Harrison considered the soul stylings of Smokey Robinson to be among the best pop ever written.

Throughout the group’s club days playing in Hamburg, many of their sets usually involved dipping their toes into many different genres. Considering most of their shows would span six hours at a time, they would usually pick up on anything they could find in a record store, whether it was some obscure Carl Perkins B-side or jazzy standards they could sprinkle into the set like ‘Besame Mucho’.

While rock and roll was still dominating the teenage demographic, a little genre called soul was creeping up with the rise of Motown Records. Although acts like Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 would be the main attractions for a lot of soul fans in the late 1960s, Robinson was the main man starting all the way back in the early 1960s.

Taking influences from gospel stylings and artists like Sam Cooke and Ray Charles, Robinson’s knack for melody with The Miracles resulted in some of the most heartfelt music of the time. Even when he sang an absolutely heartbreaking song like ‘You Really Got a Hold on Me’ or ‘Tracks of My Tears,’ no one could say that he didn’t mean every word that he sang.

It was that kind of conviction that led to Harrison writing the tribute track ‘Pure Smokey’, later recalled in his book, I Me Mine, “I’ve always liked Smokey Robinson, and he’s probably one of the best songwriters around. He writes great lyrics and great melodies, and he is fantastic to see in concert because one tends to forget how many good tunes he has written.”

When The Beatles were in their prime, though, John Lennon was normally the one trying to emulate Smokey Robinson. He eventually took the lead on their cover of ‘You Really Got a Hold On Me’, and that kind of melodic love song format was built into every single deep cut he wrote, like ‘Ask Me Why’ or ‘It Won’t Be Long’.

And while The Beatles were still technically a rock and roll outfit, Harrison was the only one who actually seemed interested in soul music, eventually creating albums like Extra Texture that tried to evoke that same emotional vocal power The Miracles had in their prime. That kind of soulful sound didn’t go away, either, with Harrison channelling that same kind of mentality into a handful of songs on Cloud Nine as well.

Was he ever going to reach the heights that Robinson did with the Miracles? Not at all, but that didn’t seem to matter. Harrison was more interested in making tunes that meant something to him, and if someone like Robinson lit his world on fire through his music, it was only a matter of time before ‘The Quiet Beatle’ found a way to work it into his music.

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