On this day in music history: December 5, 1970…

On this day in music history: December 5, 1970 – “The Tears Of A Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on December 12, 1970. Written by Stevie Wonder, Henry Cosby and Smokey Robinson, it is the second R&B and lone pop chart topper for the Detroit based R&B vocal group led by singer, songwriter and producer Smokey Robinson. Stevie Wonder and his then producer Hank Cosby write the music for the song in the Fall of 1966, but are not able to come up with suitable lyrics for it. They play it for Smokey at the annual Motown Christmas party that year and ask if he can write some lyrics for it. Upon hearing the instrumental track, the intros’ calliope like sound reminds Robinson of the circus. He’ll begin to write lyrics about Pagliacci The Clown, the central character in the Ruggero Leoncavallo opera, “Pagliacci”. The man in the song compares himself to the famed clown who brought joy to many, but himself is sad and lonely because he doesn’t have a woman who loves him. The track is recorded at Motown’s Studio A on September 26, 1966, with members of The Funk Brothers providing musical support. The Miracles record their vocals in early 1967 and the song is first released as a track on the album “Make It Happen”, which goes largely unnoticed by the public. It is first released in the UK as a single in early September 1970 after a successful re-release of “The Tracks Of My Tears”. “Clown” hits number one in the UK selling over 900,000 copies, leading to its US release. Before it’s issued in the US, Motown makes new stereo and mono mixes of the song, the latter being used for the US 45, which includes a newly recorded bass line. The stereo remix appears on the album “One Dozen Roses” released in August of 1971. Released in the US on September 24, 1970, “The Tears Of A Clown” sells over a million copies, and its popularity extends Robinsons’ stay in The Miracles, who prior to the songs’ release had planned to leave the group in order to spend more time at home with his wife and family before launching his own solo career. The song is covered numerous times over the years with versions by Petula Clark, The (English) Beat, Nnenna Freelon, Phil Collins, Eumir Deodato, Marc Cohn, and Boyzone. “The Tears Of A Clown” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002.