Bobby Smith (rhythm and blues singer)
Bobby Smith in 1977
|Also known as||Bobbie Smith|
April 10, 1936|
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||March 16, 2013
Orlando, Florida, U.S.
|Genres||Pop, R&B, soul|
Robert "Bobby" Smith (sometimes spelled Bobbie; April 10, 1936 – March 16, 2013) was an American R&B singer notable as the principal lead singer of the classic Motown/Philly group, The Spinners, also known as the Detroit Spinners or the Motown Spinners, throughout its history. The group was formed circa 1954 at Ferndale High School in Ferndale, Michigan, just north of the Detroit border. The group had their first record deal when they signed with Tri-Phi Records in early 1961.
Smith had been the group's main lead singer since its inception, having sung lead vocals on The Spinners first hit record in 1961, "That's What Girls Are Made For" (which has been inaccurately credited to the group's mentor and former Moonglows lead singer, the late Harvey Fuqua). Smith also sang lead on most of their Motown material during the 1960s, such as the charting singles like "Truly Yours" (1966) and "I'll Always Love You" (1965); almost all of the group's pre-Motown material on Fuqua's Tri-Phi Records label, and also on The Spinners' biggest Atlantic Records hits. These included "I'll Be Around", "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love", "They Just Can't Stop It the (Games People Play)". In 1974, they scored their only #1 Pop hit with "Then Came You" (sung by Smith, in a collaboration with superstar Dionne Warwick). Despite the fact that Smith led on many of the group's biggest hits, many have erroneously credited most of the group's success to only one of its three lead singers, the late Philippé Wynne. (Henry Fambrough also sang lead on many of the Spinners' songs.) The confusion between Smith and Wynne may be due to the similarities in their voices, and the fact that they frequently shared lead vocals on many of those hits.
In fact Wynne was many times inaccurately credited for songs that Smith actually sang lead on, such as by the group's label, Atlantic Records, on their Anthology double album collection (an error corrected in the group's later triple CD set, The Chrome Collection). Throughout a succession of lead singers (Wynne, John Edwards, G. C. Cameron etc.), Smith's lead voice had always been The Spinners' mainstay.
With the 2013 death of Smith, from pneumonia and influenza, as well as fellow Spinners members C. P. Spencer in 2004, Billy Henderson in 2007, and bass singer Pervis Jackson in 2008, Henry Fambrough is now the last remaining original member of the group. Fambrough is still performing with a current day line-up of Spinners.
- Romanski, Patricia and Holly George-Warren (Editors). The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. New York, NY: Fireside, 2005.