Like many of his, and other early Tamla Motown recordings, What's So Good About Good-By contains two profound and contradictory elements that are pulling in opposite directions; that I suggest, help to give it its depth and richness. The song, written and sung by Smokey Robinson, is about loss and privation, sung with genuine bluesy and soulful feeling by someone who has direct experience of rejection and privation in what was then segregated country. This, and the harmony of the music in accord with  those same sentiments, is one compelling force. Pulling in the opposite direction is an underlying, immeasurable, yet palpable, expression of optimism; an irrepressible optimism born of a convergence of particular circumstances. William 'Smokey' Robinson, at the time, at least as far as his career and his art goes, was riding the crest of a particularly high wave, singing, writing  and producing, for himself, and many others, some of the best popular songs in the western world (at the time Bob Dylan referred to him as the worlds greatest living poet). He was also performing many other executive roles as an invaluable asset to Berry Gordy's rapidly blossoming Tamla Motown empire (in recognition of which Gordy was soon to promote him to vice president). In short he was on top of the most important and successful new record outfit in the business, and it was black owned and run. Tamla was fast becoming a benchmark and an international symbol of black achievement, with Smoky Robinson himself emerging as a household name; all at a time when the modernist paradigm itself was at its very zenith. I can't imagine what it must have been like for him, I only think it manifests itself in his music, with these two as it were underlying forces, pushing or pulling, against or away from each other to produce something resonant and fertile; the product of a creative talent who [I guess few ever are] was in this unique position. 




    While Berry Gordy Jnr. (seen on the left arriving in Great Britain) was conquering the world with the music of  Tamla Motown, back home he and his artists were struggling to get through the doors of some restaurants .


See also:

Baby Donít You Go

Whatever Makes You Happy

Everybodyís Gotta Pay Some Dues

Way Over There

Shop Around

Whoís Lovin You

Happy Landing

Youíve Really Got A Hold On Me