Smokey Robinson Q&A: The legendary soul man is still making hits on and off the course at age 83
Jim Wright/Trunk Archive
This interview was first published in the September/October 2023 issue of GOLF.
GOLF: Who introduced you to golf, and when did you start playing?
Smokey Robinson: I started playing in 1969. Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, is my best friend. His brother Robert introduced every one of us at Motown to the game — Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops. Yeah, we got into it.
G: Where do you play most of your golf now?
SR: Wherever they got some holes and flags, baby. I go to the country clubs. I go to the public links. We just go play, because golf is golf. People say, “Well, such-and-such course is easy.” I want to see the easy golf course. I’ve never played that one. [Laughs.]
G: Who’s in your regular foursome?
SR: I play with friends I’ve known forever. There are a few celebrity guys I play with too: Jeffrey Osborne, Alice Cooper, Kenny G and George Lopez. Whoever wants to play, we play. Alice Cooper and Kenny G are scratch golfers. They could be on Tour.
G: What kind of musical ideas do you get on the golf course?
SR: I’ve gotten many ideas on the golf course. I’ll start humming a melody that I’ve never heard, or some words will come, or a phrase. It just happens. There’s no set time, place or formula for me to write a song.
G: The music Motown made became the soundtrack to the civil rights movement. As an African-American golfer, what did it feel like for you to watch Black players like Charlie Sifford and Lee Elder break down barriers on the PGA Tour?
SR: I loved it. I played golf with Charlie, and it was a wonderful experience. Charlie was a complicated man. You can understand it because he had to go through so much stuff so he could play on the PGA Tour. I’m very proud of the fact that those guys had the stamina to withstand what they had to withstand to be professional golfers.
G: Naming your new album Gasms has attracted a lot of attention. Was that intentional?
SR: I was at the piano, writing songs for the album, and I thought about what’s controversial, because [to sell records] at my age you have to be controversial. When you hear the word gasm, the first gasm that comes to mind is orgasm, which is probably the most important one anyway. But I looked the word up, and gasm is any good feeling you might have about any subject.
G: So, by definition, you could be singing about golf gasms.
SR: I’ve had many of them. I’ve had two holes in one, man. Those are both golf gasms.
G: If you had to pick one of your own songs to describe your golf game, what would it be?
SR: Have I ever written a song about havoc or extreme disappointment? Because if I have, that’s the one!