Song: "The Tracks of My Tears"
Writers: Smokey Robinson, Pete Moore, Marv Tarplin
Band: The Miracles
Original Release: June 23, 1965
1965 is to the pop music industry what 1939 is to cinema: arguably the golden year. The Beatles were well-established and the Rolling Stones and Kinks eagerly followed their lead across the pond. The Beach Boys were coming into their own, too. Bob Dylan was finding a mainstream audience. Perhaps best of all, Motown was in full-flight. The Four Tops, the Temptations and the Supremes were all cranking out smash hits. Check out a list of the top songs from 1965 (like this one) and you'll be amazed by the level of quality. There are masterpieces like the Beatles' "In My Life" and "Yesterday" that aren't even on that list.
It is telling of 1965's prowess that a song almost universally hailed as one of the all-time greats never even cracked the top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100. "The Tracks of My Tears" draws you in with one of the most gently soothing electric guitar licks you'll ever hear. Cue the Miracles, the writers and singers of Motown's tightest vocal harmonies, then the inimitable Smokey spinning soul music's best falsetto. The song is an unforgettable three-minute journey from lullaby to urgent plea.
"The Tracks of My Tears" experienced a resurgence in popularity when it was featured in the film Platoon in 1986. That's about the time I first heard it, too. My first-ever pop music concert was Smokey Robinson at Wolf Trap in the summer of 1988.