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The Miracles’ Pete Moore dies at 79

Herb Boyd | 11/30/2017, 4:06 p.m.
Whenever the Miracles, Motown’s seminal group, is mentioned, invariably Smokey Robinson is the next word. But by 1975, Robinson was ...
Pete Moore Contributed

Whenever the Miracles, Motown’s seminal group, is mentioned, invariably Smokey Robinson is the next word. But by 1975, Robinson was soloing, and it was left for Pete Moore, Ronnie White and Bobby Rogers to maintain things. “Love Machine,” written by Moore and Billy Griffin, who had replaced Robinson, soared to the top of the charts and is, putatively, the Miracles all-time best-seller. These facts are recalled as we say goodbye to Moore, who died in Las Vegas, Nov. 19, his 79th birthday.

According to his wife, Tina, the cause of Moore’s death was complications of diabetes.

But “Love Machine,” with its churning bursts of rhythm, was just one of many songs composed by Moore. He co-wrote such memorable tunes as “Ooo Baby Baby,” which many Americans cite as the soundtrack to their most romantic moments, “The Tracks of My Tears” and “My Girl Has Gone.” Moreover, he was the vocal arranger on all the group’s hits.

None of the Miracles were as close to Robinson as Moore, and his bass voice complemented Robinson’s tenor-to-falsetto leads. They were childhood friends who by the time they were teenagers in Detroit knew exactly how to blend their voices, which led to the formation of The Five Chimes. They were the Matadors by 1959, when they were discovered by Berry Gordy, recording their first song on the Tamla label.

Their next iteration was the Miracles, and it was under this rubric that they would attain the international recognition and jump-start the incomparable Motown bandwagon. “We are the premiere group of Motown,” Moore often told reporters. “We were there before there was a Motown. We set the pace for all the other artists to come after us.”

Among the Miracles’ top hits was “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965) with Moore as the co-writer with Robinson and guitarist Marv Tarplin. Moore often recounted how the song came about. “Why don’t we write a song about a guy who appeared to be happy on the outside, but he’s always sad on the inside?” Moore proposed to his co-writers. “So we wrote it.” And the song is ranked 12th on Rolling Stone’s 1988 list of the 100 best singles of the previous 25 years. Moore said it wasn’t unusual to see folks in the audience crying when they did that song.

More changes came for the group in 1967, when they became Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. No matter the name, the hits kept coming, including “I Second That Emotion” and “Here I Go Again.” In fact, it was the latter tune that bore Moore’s imprint, and he would also co-write such songs as “Ain’t That Peculiar,” “I’ll Be Doggone,” “Take This Heart of Mine,” and “One More Heartache,” for Marvin Gaye.

In 1972, about the same time as Motown was leaving Detroit for California, Robinson left the Miracles and began his solo act. Meanwhile, the Miracles continued to prosper with Billy Griffin as the lead. The group disbanded in 1978 and Moore devoted much of his time to his entertainment firm, WBMM enterprises. He is also co-owner with Griffin of the music publishing company Grimora Music.

Moore received many honors and awards, a few of which he listed during his interview on HistoryMakers. “He has been a four-time winner of the Broadcast Music, Inc. award for songwriting, and was inducted with the rest of the Miracles into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001,” stated HistoryMakers. “In 2009, the Miracles received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and, in 2012, Moore was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has received the Award of Merit by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. The Miracles are also four-time inductees into the Grammy Hall of Fame.”

He is survived by his wife, Tina; twin daughters, Monique and Monette Moore; and a sister, Winifred Moore.