Smokey Robinson and The Miracles: Tears of A Clown.
Above Photo: Smokey Robinson performing Tears of a Clown (Screenshot)
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ ‘Tears of a Clown’ gets an honourable mention in my Punk and New Wave memoir, Bombed Out! because the song was in the UK charts in 1976, which is about the time I was dancing to it in local discos in Liverpool (a terrible sight, believe me).
I absolutely loved this song back then, and hearing it today always fills me with strong memories of my mis-spent youth.
Tears of a Clown was originally an album track on the Miracles’ 1967 album ‘Make It Happen’, but it was released as a single in the UK and shot to Number One in 1970. This prompted Motown to release it in the US too, when it also went to Number One.
As I was doing music research when writing Bombed Out! I was surprised to discover Stevie Wonder had written the music to the song, and even more surprised (never really having closely listened to the lyrics before) to learn a nineteenth century opera had inspired the lyrics.
The opera ‘Pagliacci’, was written by an Italian called Ruggero Leoncavallo, and one of the themes is the hiding of passion, jealousy and pain behind the fake smiles of actors playing clowns in a village play. The opera is specifically mentioned in the lyrics:
“Just like Pagliacci did/I’ll try to keep my sadness hid”
The album the track came from (originally called Make It Happen), was re-released a few years later, renamed as ‘Tears of a Clown’ to capitalise on the success of the single.
The song has been covered many times, but the only memorable one for me was The (English) Beat, who ambitiously covered the song in 1979 and got to Number 6 in the UK charts. That was a very impressive performance back then for a Ska band, and slap bang in the middle of my Punk and New Wave musical narrative in Bombed Out…
Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php
I have added both versions of the song below (The Beat appearing on Top of The Pops is great footage).