Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

The Tears of a Clown

Song Review by

"Tears of a Clown," the last number one hit for Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, reached the top of the charts in the fall of 1970. If the song sounds more like prime Smokey & the Miracles than a last gasp, there's a reason for it -- the song was first released as an album track in 1967, when the group was still near the peak of its powers. In retrospect, it's hard to see why it wasn't immediately released as a single, since it's about as perfect as Robinson -- or Motown, for that matter -- ever got. "Tears of a Clown" achieves an ideal blend of song, performance, and production; it's impossible to think of the song without hearing Robinson's voice or the impeccable arrangement, which positively crackles with lovely little touches like the isolated bassoon note in the main riff. This is what the Motown sound was -- catchy, fun, propulsive, and deceptively intricate. As a matter of fact, it so perfectly encapsulated everything Motown was about that ABC essentially borrowed this arrangement for its 1987 tribute "When Smokey Sings." However, "Tears of a Clown" retains its punch when it's stripped from its quintessential Motown arrangement, thanks to the brilliant, tight writing. For instance, on the English Beat's wonderful ska revision -- possibly the most radical reworking of the song -- the essence remains the same, thanks to the song's structure: the carnival-esque opening refrain, the soaring medley, and Robinson's deft lyrics. Even on lesser covers, the brilliance of the writing shines through, which is testament to what a fine song "Tears of a Clown" really is. And even though the English Beat delivered a splendid cover, it doesn't top Smokey & the Miracles' original -- which isn't only one of their best singles, it's one of the best singles Motown ever released.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Make It Happen 1967 Universal Music Group 0:00
The Tears of a Clown 1970 Motown 2:59
One Dozen Roses 1971 Motown / Uni 0:00
Anthology [1973] 1973 Motown 2:59
12 #1 Hits from the 70's 1982
Various Artists
Motown 3:00
No Image 1983
Various Artists
Motown
Great Songs and Performances 1983 Motown 2:59
No Image 1985
Various Artists
MGM
Billboard Top Rock & Roll Hits: 1970 1989
Various Artists
Rhino 3:00
Sounds of the Seventies: 1970 1989
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:00
Hitsville USA - The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971 1992
Various Artists
Motown 3:06
Rhythm & Blues: 1970 1992
Various Artists
Time / Life Music
Back to Back: Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles 1993 K-Tel Distribution
Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits: 1968-1972 1993
Various Artists
Rhino 3:00
The 35th Anniversary Collection 1994 Motown 3:07
Music from the Wonder Years, Vol. 5 1994
Various Artists
Laserlight / Delta Distribution 3:07
Music from The Wonder Years 1994
Various Artists
Laserlight
Crooklyn, Vol. 2 1995
Original Soundtrack
MCA 3:03
The Best of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles 1995 Motown 3:06
Motown: The Very Best of the 60's 1997
Various Artists
Motown 2:56
WCBS FM 101.1 25th Anniversary, Vol. 3: The 70's - Silver Anniversary Edition 1997
Various Artists
Collectables 2:58
Motown Chartbusters, Vol. 5 1997
Various Artists
Spectrum Music / PolyGram 3:01
Motown 40 Forever 1998
Various Artists
Motown 3:00
The Ultimate Collection [1998] 1998 Motown 3:03
Chart Toppers: R&B Hits of the 70s 1998
Various Artists
Priority Records
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Smokey Robinson & The Mir 1999 Motown 3:02
Motown Chartbusters, Vol. 1 - 6 1999
Various Artists
Spectrum Music / Motown 3:01
Going to a Go-Go/Tears of a Clown 199? Motown 3:02
Entertainment Weekly: The Greatest Hits 1970 2000
Various Artists
Buddha Records 3:02
Motown History, Vol. 1 2000
Various Artists
Polygram 3:02
Tracks of My Tears 2000 Spectrum Music / Universal / Spectrum 3:01
Soul Train: The Dance Years 1970 2000
Various Artists
Rhino 3:05
Motown: The Classic Years 2000
Various Artists
Motown 3:02
New York Knicks Collection 2001
Various Artists
Alphabet City 3:02
New York Knicks: Their Music 2001
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Alphabet City 3:02
Greatest Number 1's Ever 2001 EMI Music Distribution 2:56
Make It Happen/Special Occasion 2001 Universal Distribution / Motown 3:06
Pure American Soul, Vol. 2: 70's 2001 Platinum Disc 3:04
Entertainment Weekly: The Greatest Hits 1970-1974 2001
Various Artists
Buddha Records 3:02
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: Motown 1970s, Vol. 1 2001
Various Artists
Motown 2:59
Motown Chartbusters, Vols. 4-6 2001
Various Artists
Spectrum Music 3:01
All Music Guide: Motown Memories 2001
Various Artists
Medalist Entertainment 3:04
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:00
The Blues & Soul, Vol. 2: 1970-1971 2002
Various Artists
Connoisseur 3:05
100% Motown '70s 2002
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 3:00
R&B Soul Classics 2002
Various Artists
Repertoire 3:00
Soul 70's: What's Going On 2003
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:00
The Ultimate Soul Collection, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
WEA International 2:59
Respect: The Soul Generation Soundtrack 2003
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:58
WCBS FM: Motown, Soul and Rock N Roll: Motown 2003
Various Artists
Collectables 0:00
Motown Greatest Hits 2003
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 2:59
Uncovered [EMI] 2003
Various Artists
Family Recordings 3:00
Motown Number 1's 2004
Various Artists
Motown / UTV 0:00
60's Soul Mix, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Universal International 2:58
Best Of Soul [Madacy Box Set] 2004
Various Artists
Madacy 3:00
'70s [Universal 2004] 2004
Various Artists
Universal / USM 2:57
Motown Classics: Gold 2005
Various Artists
Motown 3:02
Hitsville UK: Motown In Britain 2005
Various Artists
Spectrum Music / Tamla / Universal International 3:02
My World: The Definitive Collection 2005 Motown 3:00
Motown Remixed 2005
Various Artists
Motown 3:43
Motown Unmixed 2005
Various Artists
Motown 3:03
Dancing in the Streets: Motowns Greatest Hits 2005
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 3:05
Classic Soul: Motown Legends, Vol. 4-5/100% Motown 2005
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 0:00
Chronicles: Music Inspired by the Big Chill [Box Set] 2006
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:02
#1 R&B Hits [Madacy] 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 2:58
#1 Hits: Classic 70s Rock 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 2:59
Soul Legends 2006 Universal International 3:05
'70s Soul Gold 2006
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:02
Gold 2006 Motown 3:02
50th Anniversary Collection 2006 Universal Distribution / UMVD 3:00
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Motown 3:02
Prime 17: Ultimate Soul #1 Hits 2007
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:58
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:58
Gold: International Version 2008 Universal 2:56
Motown Remixed & Unmixed 2008 Motown / Universal Distribution 3:46
The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 10: 1970 2008
Various Artists
Hip-o Select
Motown 50 Fanthology 2008
Various Artists
Universal 0:00
Motown: The Complete #1s 2008
Various Artists
Motown 3:04
Tour of Duty: Top 100 2008
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:03
Now That's What I Call Motown! 2009
Various Artists
Motown 3:00
Classic 2009 Motown / Universal 3:06
Icons: Smokey Robinson & the Miracles 2009 Universal / Universal Distribution / Universal Music 3:00
Motown 50 Fanthology 2009
Various Artists
Motown 2:59
Motortown Review 2009
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:58
Sweet Soul Music: 1970 2009
Various Artists
Bear Family Records
Total Motown 2010
Various Artists
Spectrum Music 3:02
Icon: Motown Classics 2012
Various Artists
Motown 3:00
Motown the Musical: 100 Originals 2013
Various Artists
Cobalt Helladisc / Universal Music 3:03
202 Motown Songs: The Complete #1's
Various Artists
Island / Def Jam / Universal Music 3:04
Best of Motown Classics
Various Artists
Universal 3:01
No Image
Various Artists
2:59
Crooklyn, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Geffen 3:03
Icon: Motown Classics, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Motown 3:01
No Image
Various Artists
Universal Music 3:06
Motown Greatest Hits [2019]
Various Artists
Universal
The Stripped Mixes Motown / Strategic Marketing 3:10