"The Tracks of My Tears" is a multiple award-winning and much covered love song introduced in 1965 by The Miracles on Motown's Tamla label. This song is considered to be among the finest recordings of The Miracles, and it sold over one million records within two years, making it The Miracles' fourth million-selling record. It has also been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and is listed by Rolling Stone magazine as #50 in its listing of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
- 2 Cover versions
- 3 Awards and accolades
- 4 Film and television
- 5 Credits: The Miracles
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 External links
In the five-LP publication The Motown Story, by Motown Records, Robinson explained the origin of this song in these words: "'Tracks of My Tears' was actually started by Marv Tarplin, who is a young cat who plays guitar for our act. So he had this musical thing [sings melody], you know, and we worked around with it, and worked around, and it became 'Tracks of My Tears'." Tarplin's guitar licks at the song's intro are among the most famous in pop music history.
"The Tracks of My Tears" was a number 2 hit on the Billboard R&B chart, and it reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Belatedly released in the UK in 1969, it became a Top Ten hit that summer, reaching number 9 (the UK release was credited to "Smokey Robinson and the Miracles").
"The Tracks of My Tears" is not among the seven Miracles' tracks to reach the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100, and the highest charting pop version of the song was the 1967 cover version by Johnny Rivers which reached number 10.
Aretha Franklin recorded the song for her Soul '69 album from which it was issued as a single although as the B-side. Franklin's version of "The Weight", became the favored track with "Tracks of My Tears" peaking at number 76 Pop and number 21 R&B.
"Tracks of My Tears" became a pop Top 40 hit for the third time, when the version recorded by Linda Ronstadt for her 1975 album Prisoner in Disguise, was issued as that album's second single. The track was not one of Ronstadt's biggest hits peaking at #25 ("Tracks of My Tears" reached #11 on the C&W chart in tandem with its B-side: the Emmylou Harris duet: "The Sweetest Gift"). Conversely, Ronstadt would score one of her biggest hits with her 1978 single "Ooo Baby Baby" which was a remake of the Miracles' hit single release precedent to "The Tracks of My Tears". Ronstadt and Smokey Robinson performed both "The Tracks of My Tears" and "Ooo Baby Baby" on the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special broadcast on May 16, 1983.
In 1993, Go West reached number 16 in the UK Singles Chart with "Tracks of My Tears". In that country, after the Miracles' original had reached the UK Top Ten in 1969, the song has been a minor chart item via the Linda Ronstadt remake (number 42 in 1976) and a 1982 version by Colin Blunstone which reached number 60.
The Jackson 5 recorded the song for Steeltown Records in 1968, and it was to be part of an 11 track studio album but remained unreleased until The Steeltown Sessions was released in 2008. Others who have recorded the song include:
- Pat Kelly (1969)
- Dean Martin (1970)
- Gladys Knight & the Pips - B-side of single "If I Were Your Woman" (1970)
- The Pharaohs - The Awakening (1972)
- Bryan Ferry - These Foolish Things (1973)
- Linda Ronstadt - Prisoner in Disguise (1975)
- Graeme Strachan - (1976)
- The Mighty Diamonds - (1977)
- The Flying Pickets - Live at the Albany Empire (1982); an a cappella version
- Big Country - B-side of single "Chance" (1983)
- Carmel - The Drum is Everything (1984)
- Dogbowl & Kramer - Hot Day in Waco (1994)
- La Toya Jackson - Stop in the Name of Love (1995)
- Patty Griffin with Billy Mann (1996); a live recording on Detroit's 93.9, The River
- Peter André - Time (1997)
- Mietta - La Mia Anima (1998)
- Billy Bragg (2002) on his album, England, Half-English. In "Tears of My Tracks", a man laments selling his vinyl record collection. Bragg had previously recorded a version of "The Tracks of My Tears" that was issued, along with other demos, b-sides, and rarities, on the second disk of the re-released Talking with the Taxman about Poetry.
- Gavin DeGraw (2004)
- Michael McDonald - Motown Two (2005)
- Mica Paris - Soul Classics (2005)
- Human Nature - Reach Out: The Motown Record (2005)
- Ben Mills - The X Factor (UK Series 3) (2006)
- Boyz II Men - Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA (2007); also released as the first single from the album
- Dolly Parton - Backwoods Barbie (2008)
- Adam Lambert - American Idol Season 8 (2009) When he sang the song during the competition Smokey gave him a standing ovation.
- Rod Stewart - Soulbook (2009); this version features Smokey Robinson.
- UB40 - Labour of Love IV (2010)
- Paul McDonald - American Idol 10 (2011) Paul sang the song during Motown week (Top 11) during the competition.
- Devin Velez - American Idol Season 12 (2013) Devin sang the song during Motown Week (Top 8). He was eliminated the same week.
It has also been notably covered by: Soul Asylum, Billy Bragg, Susan Cadogan, The Contours, Martha and the Vandellas, The Mighty Diamonds, Q-Tip, Dianne Reeves, Brenda Russell, Mongo Santamaría, and Paul Young.
Awards and accolades
The Miracles' recording of "The Tracks of My Tears" ranked at #50 on Rolling Stone Magazine's The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004; the track was also a 2007 inductee into the Grammy Hall of Fame. On May 14, 2008, the track was preserved by the United States Library of Congress as an "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significance" to the National Recording Registry. The song "The Tracks of My Tears" was also awarded "The Award Of Merit" from The American Society of Composers, Authors,and Publishers (ASCAP) for Miracles members/composers Pete Moore, Marv Tarplin, and Smokey Robinson.
Ranked by the RIAA and the National Endowment for the Arts at #127 in its list of the Songs of the Century - the 365 Greatest Songs of the 20th Century - "The Tracks of My Tears" was also chosen as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Additionally the song ranked at #5 of the Top 10 Best Songs of All Time by a panel of 20 top industry songwriters and producers including Hal David, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Jerry Leiber, and others as reported to Britain's Mojo music magazine. A 2006 poll for Britain's Favourite Break-up Songs, a Network 5 TV program, "The Tracks of My Tears" ranked at #16.
Film and television
The 17 February 1983 broadcast of the sitcom Gimme a Break! entitled "The Return of the Doo-Wop Girls" featured an a cappella performance of "The Tracks of My Tears" by series star Nell Carter collaborating with the Pointer Sisters.
Credits: The Miracles
- Smokey Robinson - lead vocals, co-writer, producer
- Marv Tarplin - guitar, co-writer
- Claudette Rogers Robinson - background vocals
- Pete Moore - background vocals, co-writer, vocal arranger
- Ronnie White - background vocals
- Bobby Rogers - background vocals
- Written by William "Smokey" Robinson, Jr., Warren "Pete" Moore, and Marvin "Marv" Tarplin of "The Miracles"
- Produced by "Smokey" Robinson
- Other instrumentation by The Funk Brothers and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra