Smokey Robinson Receives the Gershwin Prize

February 6, 2017

George Gershwin Gershwin Events Ira Gershwin Library of Congress
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden interviews Gershwin Prize for Popular Song recipient Smokey Robinson at the Gershwin piano, November 15, 2016. Photo by Shawn Miller.

On Friday, February 10, 2017, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) will begin airing Smokey Robinson: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the latest special to honor the work of great musical artists whose careers reflect “lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding.”

Samuel L. Jackson hosts the 90-minute program, which celebrates the legendary Motown hitmaker (“Tracks of My Tears,” “My Girl,” “Tears of a Clown,” and “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” among hundreds of others), and features performances by CeLo Green, JoJo, Aloe Blacc, Gallant, Ledisi, Tegan Marie, Kip Moore, Corinne Bailey Rae, Esperanza Spalding, The Tenors, BeBe Winans, and Robinson himself, who – along with a set of his own material – sings the classic George and Ira Gershwin ballad, “Love Is Here to Stay,” which he recorded on his 2006 album Timeless Love.

The Library of Congress recently released a short conversation between the honoree and the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden (pictured above). Robinson is sitting at a piano once owned by George Gershwin himself; one of the composer’s self-portraits is visible behind Hayden, as is a typewriter that belonged to Ira Gershwin. The conversation was taped last November in the Gershwin Room, located in the Library of Congress’ historic Thomas Jefferson Building, which is open to the public Monday-Saturday.

Robinson follows in the footsteps of previous Gershwin Prize recipients Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, and Willie Nelson.

More details about the Gershwin Prize can be found at the Library of Congress website and at the official PBS website for the program.

— Michael Owen