LOS ANGELES – Smokey Robinson's (search) professional accomplishments have been celebrated for nearly four decades, his name and signature falsetto becoming synonymous with classic songwriting and timeless music.
Dating back to his early days at Motown Records (search), where he penned hit songs including "Shop Around," "Ooh Baby Baby," "The Tracks of My Tears" and "My Girl," Robinson has been credited as an architect of R&B music. Bob Dylan once called him "America's greatest living poet."
But the details of his personal struggles have been far less public. He began using drugs during the 1980s, and what started out as recreation with friends eventually overtook him for a two-year period.
"I was dead," he told The Associated Press. "I was ashamed of myself because it wasn't like (drug addiction) happened to me as a teenager or a young man. I was a full-fledged adult and my life was going exactly as I would have written it, but drugs don't care who you are or what you're
After his close friend Leon Issac Kennedy took Robinson one day to a storefront church in Los Angeles, Robinson says he quit cold turkey after the service.
"I turned it over to God," he said of his recovery. "I never went to rehab or a doctor or psychotherapy. The Lord freed me that night and when I came out of there, I was healed."
Now Robinson is taking his first step into the gospel world with "Food for the Spirit," (search) released in April on his own Robso Records. Prior to recording the nine-song album, he'd been writing inspirational songs with the intention of shopping them to other artists.
"There are so many people who don't know that I have a wonderful, wonderful relationship with Christ," he said. "As human beings, we are conscious of our physical selves, but I don't think that the majority of us are thinking about developing our spiritual selves. I called the album "Food for the Spirit" because I want (listeners') spirits to be fed."
A native of Detroit, Robinson's career began with The Matadors, a local group that eventually morphed into the legendary quintet The Miracles. After brainstorming with Berry Gordy to form Motown Records in 1958, Robinson's talents as a singer, songwriter and producer began to take shape.
"Being a part of Motown is one of my proudest achievements," Robinson said. "We were a family ... I hadn't seen The Funk Brothers in 15 or 20 years, but when I saw them at the Motown's 45th (celebration), it was like I'd just gotten through doing a session with them in the studio. One of the greatest thrills that I've had in a long time was doing some dates with Gladys (Knight). We traveled all over the country and had a ball."
Along with writing and producing songs for The Miracles, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations, The Marvelettes and the late Marvin Gaye, Robinson's own titles as a solo artist have included "Cruisin'," "Being With You" and "Quiet Storm," the title track from his 1975 solo debut that has since launched a whole radio programming movement.
"One of the DJs who was on the air at night in Washington, D.C., named his show 'The Quiet Storm' and it has snowballed all over the country, Robinson said. "I'm really proud that it has become a trademark."
Since the release of his last studio album, 1999's "Intimate," he has regularly shared his story of triumph over drug addiction at churches, rehabilitation facilities, gang meetings and juvenile detention centers.
He's also been expanding his line of cuisine, Smokey Robinson Foods, which is available in Chicago and California supermarkets. The project was brought to him by his friend Kennedy, the "Penitentiary" actor and former husband of Jayne Kennedy.
The father of three and grandfather of eight, Robinson is "very happy" th his family life.
"I don't have any children anymore; I have all adults now," he laughed. "Being a grandparent is probably the most wonderful part of parenthood because grandbabies are like your kids, plus."
He is also rediscovering the joys of marriage with his second wife, Frances, whom he married two years ago.
"I've been blessed enough to have a job that I love and it's by God's grace that I'm doing what I'm doing," he said. "So, I give Him the glory, the power and the credit -- I give Him the accolades. I'm living beyond my wildest imagination."