Passive Smokey Robinson ticked at Lions

Smokey Robinson and a friend stand in front of Hitsville USA studio in Detroit about 50 years ago. Courtesy of Motown/Hitsville

Even after more than 50 years of performing, Motown singing legend Smokey Robinson still has a soft, melodic voice that resembles a whisper.

Born in Detroit and one of the originators of the Motown Sound with his group the Miracles, the 72-year-old Robinson hasn't changed much.

He still travels the country performing his many group and solo hits, including "Tears of a Clown" and "Being with You." And this past Friday and Saturday, he was in North Hollywood reciting poetry and telling his life story at the historic El Portal Theatre.

And, on Sunday, President Bill Clinton announced at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York that Robinson has been tapped to help raise funds and share clean drinking water through the Procter & Gamble Children's Safe Drinking Water Program.

But want to rile up Robinson, who is normally a passive activist?

Mention Sunday's afternoon loss by his hometown Detroit Lions to the Tennessee Titans.

Rob Bironas kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime, and the Titans stopped backup quarterback Shaun Hill on fourth-and-1 at the Tennessee 7 to finally pull out a 44-41 win.

"The coach lost that game! The players did not lose that game!" Robinson said emphatically. "That was one of the most stupid coaches decisions in a long time! Kick the field goal and get the tie! And then go for your best shot again!"

Robinson then calms down and once again turns passive.

"I'm very happy for Detroit that it finally has a good football team again," Robinson said. "I'm not sure if the Lions are going to make the Super Bowl. The league is more balanced. I think everyone has a chance."

Playbook had a few more minutes with Robinson to talk about sports and his latest initiative.

Tell me about your love of Detroit.

"I'm a huge sports fans and I'm very happy the teams there have been successful. For a while, the Pistons were doing great, too. Anything to bring some positivity to the city is good. Detroit has had a lot of hard times. I think it's going to take effort for everyone involved. It can be turned around. Businesses there need to just create new jobs."

Bob Dylan called you America's greatest living poet. What was the performance in Los Angeles this weekend like?

"I write poetry like I write music -- all the time. We decided to put a bunch of poems together and create a show, basically telling stories of my life. I'm big in trying to bring arts back into the schools. It's a shame we're losing those. I've been speaking to schools, churches and gang meetings for 30 years and want to promote education."

Are you still encouraged by our youth?

"What people don't realize is that the majority of our kids are thinking positively. We live in a world where only negativity gets the attention. It's in every aspect of our lives. There have always been negative people. Hopefully, those numbers will dwindle."

And that's why I keep hearing the rumors of your death, like I did a few weeks ago?

"I don't think it's people liking to stir up trouble. You're just getting bombarded with it. You need the media, especially social media, to make it function. If the negativity didn't get so much attention, they probably wouldn't do it. They want that attention."

Speaking of social media, tell me about this initiative announced by President Clinton where you are leveraging social media to provide clean drinking water to developing countries.

"All over the world, there isn't enough clean water, especially for our youth. We are working on saving lives in places where the water is not clean and we're coming up with ways to decontaminate the water. The kids are our future. We need to do whatever to make it a better place for them."