NEW YORK (DPA) – Smokey Robinson has raised the alarm. Did dissenters – upset over the choice of Jennifer Lopez, and not a black singer, to helm a Motown tribute in the Grammys show on Sunday (Feb 10) – want to roll back the gains made by black artists 100 years?
“Stop hating,” he urged. “Motown united people, not divided them.”
The Motown legend himself took part in the performance on Sunday alongside Lopez and singer Ne-Yo.
“On the very first day of Motown, (founder) 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 online on Tuesday (Feb 12).
“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.”
Sunday’s tribute commemorated the 60th anniversary of Motown, the record label immortalised by a slew of iconic acts including Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye.
But many questioned why Lopez was the selection to honour Motown, including author Roxane Gay, who tweeted: “How does J Lo, pop dance queen, get tapped to lead a Motown tribute when black women exist?”
Robinson on Tuesday praised Motown for breaking racial barriers.
“So now you’re gonna try to diminish the scope of Motown and narrow it down to just music for black people and you call yourself defending the image of Motown,” he wrote.
“Well you’re trying to set us back a 100 years. J Lo was great and we at Motown love her. The beauty of Motown is that we’re a family made up of black, white, Hispanic and Asian women and men.”
He had even been more scathing in his comments before Sunday’s showcase, telling trade publication Variety: “I don’t think anyone who is intelligent is upset. I think anyone who is upset is stupid.”
Following the performance at the Grammys ceremony, Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, defended her involvement in it as well.
“The thing about music is that it inspires all. Any type of music can inspire any type of artist,” she told Entertainment Tonight.
“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 got to do what’s in your heart.”
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