Motown has lost another legend.
Bobby Smith, lead singer of Detroit group The Spinners, died on Saturday at age 76. Smith was diagnosed with lung cancer in November, and passed away after complications from pneumonia over the weekend.
Smith formed The Spinners in high school, along with Bill Henderson, Pervis Jackson and Henry Fambrough. Of the four original members, Fambrough is the only one surviving. He said today of his deceased friend and bandmate, "Bobby was a regular, down-to-earth, good-natured person, the kind of guy who’d give you his shirt. And ever since I’ve known him, he was just a natural showman."
Despite his cancer diagnosis, Smith gave a final performance just this past February, on the Soul Train Cruise. Jessie Peck, who played in the band during the performance, said Smith went out on a strong note. "Like something out of a movie, Bobby shoots right out onstage and – showman that he is – grabs a mic and sings right on cue," Peck recounts, pointing out that Smith was not scheduled to perform on the cruise because of weakness from cancer treatments, but couldn't resist getting on stage when the band started playing his hit "Then Came You."
"The audience went bananas," he says.
The Spinners joined Motown in the early 1960s and enjoyed moderate success, but really broke out in the 1970s when they joined Atlantic Records at the urging of friend Aretha Franklin. With Atlantic, they churned out some of the biggest hits of their career, including "I'll Be Around" and "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love."
Funeral services for Smith are scheduled for next Monday in his native Detroit.
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