Smokey Robinson teamed up with well-known singers from a variety of genres on his new duets album, Smokey & Friends, which hits stores today, August 19. The 11-track collection features new interpretations of songs the Motown legend wrote or co-wrote, either for his old group, The Miracles, or for The Temptations or his own solo career.
Among the famous friends who put their unique spins on Robinson's tunes was Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, who paired his voice with Smokey's on a version of the Miracles classic "You Really Got a Hold on Me."
Describing Tyler as his "fun brother," Robinson tells ABC News Radio, "We've always had a good time together. I love Steven. So, we did 'You Really Got a Hold on Me' rock." Smokey reveals that Tyler told him he picked the song because he "loved it" and has been singing it for years, sometimes even playing it with Aerosmith.
Two other veteran stars who are featured on Smokey & Friends are Elton John and James Taylor, who sang "The Tracks of My Tears" and "Ain't That Peculiar," respectively. Robinson says he's known both singers for years and worked with them on numerous occasions.
"[Elton's] just a wonderful...We are really good friends," says Smokey. "And I performed for his AIDS Foundation many times." He also recalls fondly singing with John, Taylor and Sting at one of the ex-Police frontman's Rainforest Fund benefit concerts at New York's Carnegie Hall. "It's a great thing to work with your friends like that," Robinson adds.
Robinson explains that the concept behind Smokey & Friends was the brainchild of the album's producer, longtime American Idol judge Randy Jackson, whom he says "was a joy" to work with.
"Randy…called a bunch of artists and asked them to pick their favorite Smokey Robinson song," points out the singer. "And he recorded that particular song with that artist, and what he did also was to let that artist do like a demo of their take on that song…And I'd just adhere to whatever their interpretation of the song was."
Other guest artists featured on the record include Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, John Legend, Cee Lo Green, Mary J. Blige and Jessie J.
Asked if he has any plans for a special concert that would feature some of his Smokey & Friends collaborators, Robinson says "no," although he doesn't rule out hitting he stage with those artists at some point.
"If sometimes I'm doing a concert and one or more of these artists are available, we would love for them to come," he maintains, "or if they're doing a concert somewhere and I'm available, we would love to do that too."
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