Bobby Rogers’ voice blended perfectly with that of Pete Moore, Ronnie White and his cousin Claudette Robinson as they provided background to Smokey Robinson, the Miracles’ lead singer. Rogers relished this role, though he never shied away from the spotlight and was just as agile on his feet as he was sweet with his harmonizing. Rogers, 73, died Sunday morning, March 3 in Southfield, Mich.
According to Allen Rawls, a member of the Motown Museum board, Rogers had been ill for several years. No cause was given for his death.
Easily distinguishable among the Miracles, a group he help to found in 1956, Rogers was the “tall guy with glasses.” He was also the one whose personality seemed so effervescent; he was so keenly concerned about having a good time in song and dance.
He was also a songwriter with several Motown classics to his credit, including “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” which he composed with Robinson.
Who can ever forget the tune’s opening lines: “You got a smile so bright, you know you could’ve been a candle. I’m holding you so tight; you know you could’ve been a handle?”
“Another soldier in my life has fallen,” Smokey Robinson said in a press release. “Bobby Rogers was my brother and a really good friend. He and I were born on the exact same day in the same hospital in Detroit. I am really going to miss him. I loved him very much.”
Rogers, like Robinson, was born Feb. 19, 1940. However, they didn’t meet until they were teenagers and almost immediately began forging plans for a group.
In 1963, five years after the Miracles formed, Rogers married Wanda Young, the lead singer of the Marvelettes. They had several children together and divorced in 1975. Six years later, he married Joan Hughes and they had four children. One of his grandchildren is Brandi Williams of the R&B girl group Blaque.
To list the hit records by the Miracles is to recount the soundtrack of a generation, from “Bad Girl” (1959) to “Love Machine” (1975), the latter recorded after Robinson left the group.
And it was without Robinson that the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Rogers’ cousin Claudette, who married Robinson, told the Detroit Free Press about Rogers’ appeal and approachability. “He was personable … and loved talking to women and to guys, and he loved to dance … and to perform.” She said if you listen closely to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” it’s Rogers who says, “It’s just a groovy party, man; I can dig it.”
“If people want to remember him,” said Mary Wilson, a famous Supreme, “they should put that record on and listen to Bobby. That’s who he was.”
Of course, there are countless other records that also capture the beauty of his harmony and his way of crooning while others were swooning.