George Harrison Said He Was ‘Madly in Love’ With Smokey Robinson

George Harrison had many idols in his life, but he was “madly in love” with singer/songwriter and Motown legend Smokey Robinson. The former Beatle even wrote a song about his idol.

George Harrison performing in 1987.
George Harrison | Dave Hogan/Getty Images

George Harrison was ‘madly in love’ with Smokey Robinson

During a press conference in 1974 (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters), George revealed his favorite contemporary artists. He had a hard time liking popular music, but there were a few artists that astounded the Beatle, including Robinson.

“Smokey Robinson, I’m madly in love with Smokey Robinson,” George said. 

In a 1975 interview with WNEW-FM’s Dave Herman (per George Harrison on George Harrison), George said Robinson’s music made him feel good, not uptight like other music.

Herman asked, “Is there anybody, in particular, in music or out of music, men or women, that you really admire greatly as people, as human beings, and what they’re doing in the world?”

George replied, “Yeah, yeah. In music, well, it breaks down into … I mean there’s people who have a sort of a more worldly consciousness, and that’s why I’ve always been with Ravi Shankar because he’s bringing, particularly in the west, something obscure and creating an audience…

“In simpler terms, there’s people, I like people who just convey in their music some sort of sincerity. I’m a big fan of Smokey Robinson just because musically he is so sweet, he makes you feel nice, he makes me feel good, whereas a lot of music I listen to, which is popular music, just makes me uptight.”

The former Beatle eventually wrote a song for his idol.

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George wrote ‘Pure Smokey’ to show his appreciation of Robinson

In his 1980 memoir, I Me Mine, George talked about the origins of his song “Pure Smokey,” which he wrote for his idol. The song from his 1976 album, Thirty Three & 1/3, was about George showing Robinson his appreciation before it was too late.

“‘Pure Smokey’ started out with nice chord changes,” George explained. “I’ve always liked Smokey Robinson and he’s probably one of the best songwriters around. He writes great lyrics and great melodies, and he is fantastic to see in concert, because one tends to forget how many good tunes he has written.

“He brought out an album called ‘Pure Smokey,’ and I’ve met him once or twice. Sometimes you get an idea and write a specific song, but other times—often—it turns itself into whatever it’s going to be—with the effort put into it—and this turned into ‘Pure Smokey.’

“I’m trying to make the point—if I like someone I want to say, ‘I like you.’ I don’t want to die and then to think, ‘Oh, I forgot to tell them I liked them.’

“‘Throughout my lifetimes I’d hesitate/ I’d feel some joy/ But before I’d show my thanks it became too late.’ So this song turned into an all-purpose thing of generally trying to show appreciation, and then to focus on my appreciation of Smokey.”

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How Robinson reacted to ‘Pure Smokey’

George’s “Pure Smokey” did the trick of letting the Motown singer know how much George appreciated him. Robinson was well aware of the 1976 tune. During an interview with Hazy Rock (per Something Else!), Robinson revealed that he and George eventually got close.

“The Beatles were a very unique group, as we all know,” Robinson said. “I had the pleasure of meeting the Beatles, you know. And George, I had the pleasure of spending more time with him than any of the other guys. I just met the other guys briefly. George, for a time, was living in Los Angeles, and I had the pleasure of being in his company a few times. We got to know each other kind of well.

“That was a wonderful, flattering thing for him to feel like that, and to write about it, so that the world could know that he felt like that. It was wonderful to me, and I’m very flattered by that,” Robinson said of “Pure Smokey.”

Listening to The Beatles’ earliest records, you can hear how much they loved Robinson. So, George wasn’t the only Beatle who had a love for Robinson.

According to Rolling Stone, Paul McCartney said, “Smokey Robinson was like God in our eyes.” Meanwhile, John Lennon admitted that songs like “Not a Second Time” and “All I’ve Got to Do” are examples of him “trying to do Smokey Robinson.” Paul also said the band felt cool covering Robinson and the Miracles.

The Beatles were madly in love with Robinson, but the singer/songwriter loved them just as much.

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