Smokey Robinson Defends Jennifer Lopez's GRAMMYs Tribute, Says Motown Is Not 'Just Music for Black People'
By Jennifer Drysdale
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Smokey Robinson isn't having it.
The legendary singer took to Instagram on Tuesday to defend Jennifer Lopez's Motown tribute at the GRAMMYs on Sunday, after fans criticized the decision to have the Bronx-born singer perform the set instead of an artist with stronger ties to the Motown genre. Many brought race into the equation, arguing that the tribute should have been sung by a black artist. But Robinson disagreed.
"Attention, all those of you who protested a wonderful, super talented, world renowned, super star like Jennifer Lopez, showing her love and support for Motown music, here's some food for thought: On the very first day of Motown, Berry Gordy told the five of us who were present, 'I'm gonna start my own record company, and we're gonna make music for everybody and always be sure to make quality music that the world can enjoy,'" Robinson wrote. "And through the Grace of God and hard work and determination, we accomplished that. Kids of all races, worldwide, grew up loving the music of Motown, imitating our acts. Pretending to be Diana Ross, the Temptations, Michael Jackson and son on."
The 78-year-old singer continued, saying those who call Motown "music for Black people" are "trying to set us back a hundred years." "If you call yourself loving Motown, be happy that we reached so many people and broke down so many racial barriers and that an artist like Jennifer, even after hearing all your negative comments, still loved Motown enough to do a tribute anyway," he said. Now, that's love and respect."
Robinson wrapped up his message by pointing out that several Motown artists were white. "Stop hating," he said. "Motown united people not divided themselves.... J.Lo was great and we, at Motown, love her."
ET spoke with Lopez backstage at the GRAMMYs after her set, where she said her performance was a tribute to her mother. "It was for my mom. I could cry. It’s such a good moment," Lopez shared, describing how she grew up listening to Motown hits that her mom used to play when she was a kid. "It’s just a dream come true."
"Singing up there with Smokey Robinson, like, I gotta pinch myself," she added. "I grew up on all those songs and because my mom loved him so much she passed him on to us."
Of the criticism, Lopez told ET that "any music can inspire any type of artist."
"You can’t tell people what to love. You can't tell people what they can and can’t do, what they should sing or not sing. You gotta do what’s in your heart," she said.