The nationally respected Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts tapped legendary songwriter and performer Smokey Robinson to headline their Performance Series of Legends 2012 benefit concert, March 3, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
The annual event was initiated by DC native and Duke Ellington alumnus, funny man Dave Chappelle, to continue the growth of the arts in the magnet public high school.
Before the “King of Motown” took the stage a plethora of celebrities and public figures spoke about the institution and their dedication to educational excellence.
Actor and Duke alumni Lamman Rucker (“Meet the Browns”) opened the show with Peggy Cooper Cafritz, co-founder of the premiere school, former radio personality and correspondent Donnie Simpson and DC Mayor Vincent Gray who proclaimed March 3rd “Smokey Robinson Day” in nation’s capital.
Current students of Duke Ellington serenaded the crowd with a melody of Smokey hits.
While the young instrumentalists, vocalists and dancers moved the crowd, no one commanded the stage like Smokey did when he stepped out in a winter white suit, white crisp shirt, black tie, belt and shoes and iced in diamonds.
At 72 years old – the boy looked good!
"DC is like coming home for me man. I am happy to hear that they are restoring the Howard Theater – I spent a lot of my career at that theater," remembered Smokey.
"Feels good to see the kids of Duke Ellington and be here to support the school. A lot of them kids weren't even born when these songs came out so it’s good to hear them sing [the songs] so well."
As Smokey broke into his hits, he moved like a teenage boy, jumping around the stage, running from side to side and even grinding his hips, which sent the women in the audience over the edge.
He told the story of his long time friendship with his "brother" Stevie Wonder and their work on Tears of a Clown. When he broke into one of his biggest chart toppers,
My Girl there was not one person who wasn't singing along, off key and all. He also performed one of his “all time favorite records,” I Don't Know Why, recently made famous by singer Nora Jones and written by Jesse Harris.
Smokey isn’t showing any signs of fatigue; he is still touring the world and performing his 37 Top 40 hits and some personal favorites. But he says he misses the good ole days.
"I miss those nights when you could find the Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Miracles, all preparing together. I remember when I wrote The Way You Do The Things You Do for the Temptations and it became their first international hit,” nostalgically paused Smokey. "Man I miss those days but at this point in my life I'm having a ball."