For someone who wasn’t a star in the Motown stable of artists, Bobby Rogers was a recognizable figure among fans and commanded the respect of his peers. Tall, strapping and bespectacled, Rogers was a founding member of the Miracles, who distinguished himself through his role as a foil to his better-known band mate, Smokey Robinson, and as a collaborator in the only group on Motown that wrote and produced the bulk of its own material.
Bobby Rogers and Smokey Robinson were fated to be friends and musical partners. They were born on the same day – February 19, 1940 – at the same hospital in Detroit, and grew up together singing. Their first musical group, the Five Chimes, formed in the basement of Rogers’ cousin Claudette’s home. With her, Pete Moore and Ronnie White, they became the Matadors. Eventually taking the name the Miracles, they were spotted at a local talent show by Berry Gordy Jr., then a fledgling songwriter with dreams of his own record label. He saw potential in the suave nature of the group. Gordy produced their debut single, “Got a Job,” an answer record to the Silhouettes “Get a Job,” and licensed it to United Artists Records in 1958. The experience of not getting paid further motivated Gordy to create his own label. In 1960, the Miracles’ “Shop Around” became Gordy’s first million-selling record.
As Motown grew, the Miracles were among the jewels in the crown. Working behind the scenes, Rogers helped contribute to that success by co-writing songs with Robinson. In addition to their Miracles hits like “Going to a Go-Go,” Rogers co-authored the classics “The Way You Do the Things You Do” by the Temptations and “First I Look at the Purse” by the Contours. Rogers’ sweet tenor was the counter-lead vocal to Robinson on “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” one of the groups’ biggest hits.
After Robinson left the Miracles in 1972, Rogers, Moore and White kept the group working into the ‘80s when the Miracles closed up shop. Following the death of White in 1995, Rogers and his cousin Claudette, who quit performing in 1964, revived the Miracles as a touring act. They continued to work as the Miracles into the 2000s.
Following a long period of declining health, Bobby Rogers died of complications from diabetes on March 3, 2013 at his home in suburban Detroit. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Miracles in 2012. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles are among the artists featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Cities and Sounds exhibit, in the section devoted to Detroit during the Motown era.