The Tracks of My Tears
Writer(s): Smokey Robinson/Warren Moore/Marv Tarplin (see lyrics here)
Released: June 23, 1965
First Charted: July 10, 1965
Peak: 16 US, 16 CB, 27 GR, 17 HR, 2 RB, 9 UK, 5 CN, 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 0.2 UK
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 17.93 video, 108.33 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Smokey Robinson was more “Motown’s answer to Bing Crosby” MA than a soul singer. “If you’re going to be the coolest crooner around, it helps to know how to craft such material. Only one guy did.” MA His “talents as songwriter, arranger, and producer far surpass his vocal ability” MA although “The Tracks of My Tears” is marked by his “velvety high tenor voice” NRR which “conveys the passion and pain required to maintain a false, happy exterior after a romantic breakup.” NRR
The Miracles’ guitarist Marvin Tarplin developed the main riff after he listened to “The Banana Boat Song” by Harry Belafonte. BBC Robinson almost immediately wrote most of the lyrics, but it took a few weeks before he came up with the idea of tears leaving tracks on the face. BBC It has been called “one of the most gut-wrenching songs on record.” SF
The group’s Pete Moore said, “there was just something about it that people loved…It…tapped into the depth of their emotions. Every time we sang that song people in the audience would cry.” TC One line – “Although she may be cute/She’s just a substitute” – actually inspired Pete Townshend to write the Who’s 1966 hit “Substitute.” He explained that he “decided to the celebrate the word itself with a song all its own.” RS500
The song has endured over time, but was not a huge hit initially. It cracked the top 20 in the U.S. and didn’t make it onto the UK charts (#9) until it was reissued four years later. BBC It was actually a bigger hit for Johnny Rivers, who took it to #10 in 1967. Aretha Franklin had a #71 hit with it in 1969 and Linda Ronstadt took it to #25 in 1976. SF The song was prominently featured in the movies The Big Chill (1983) and Platoon (1986).
First posted 4/20/2020; last updated 2/4/2023.