“The Tracks of My Tears” is a song written by Smokey Robinson, Pete Moore, and Marv Tarplin. It is a multiple award-winning 1965 hit R&B song originally recorded by their group, The Miracles, on Motown’s Tamla label. In 1967, Johnny Rivers covered the song and his version was a number 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Linda Ronstadt recorded a hit cover of her own in 1975 that reached number 25 on the Hot 100 chart. Numerous other artists have recorded the song over the years.
“The Tracks of My Tears” was written by Miracles members Smokey Robinson (lead vocalist), Pete Moore (bass vocalist), and Marv Tarplin (guitarist).
In the five-LP publication The Motown Story, by Motown Records, Robinson explained the origin of this song in these words: “‘Tracks of My Tears’ was actually started by Marv Tarplin, who is a young cat who plays guitar for our act. So he had this musical thing [sings melody], you know, and we worked around with it, and worked around, and it became ‘Tracks of My Tears’.” Tarplin’s guitar licks at the song’s intro are among the most famous in pop music history.
“The Tracks of My Tears” was a number 2 hit on the Billboard R&B chart, and it reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Belatedly released in the UK in 1969, it became a Top Ten hit that summer, reaching number 9 (the UK release was credited to “Smokey Robinson and the Miracles”). This song is considered to be among the finest recordings of The Miracles, and it sold over one million records within two years, making it The Miracles’ fourth million-selling record.
The Miracles can be seen performing “The Tracks of My Tears” on their 2006 Motown DVD release, The Miracles’ Definitive Performances.
The Miracles’ recording of “The Tracks of My Tears” ranked at #50 on Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004; the track was also a 2007 inductee into the Grammy Hall of Fame. On May 14, 2008, the track was preserved by the United States Library of Congress as an “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significance” to the National Recording Registry. The song “The Tracks of My Tears” was also awarded “The Award Of Merit” from The American Society of Composers, Authors,and Publishers (ASCAP) for Miracles members/composers Pete Moore, Marv Tarplin, and Smokey Robinson.
Ranked by the RIAA and the National Endowment for the Arts at number 127 in its list of the Songs of the Century – the 365 Greatest Songs of the 20th Century – “The Tracks of My Tears” was also chosen as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Additionally the song ranked at number 5 of the “Top 10 Best Songs of All Time” by a panel of 20 top industry songwriters and producers including Hal David, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Jerry Leiber, and others as reported to Britain’s Mojo music magazine.
Smokey Robinson – lead vocals, co-writer
Marv Tarplin – guitar,co-writer
Claudette Rogers Robinson – background vocals
Pete Moore – background vocals, vocal arranger, co-writer
Ronnie White – background vocals
Bobby Rogers – background vocals
Other instrumentation by The Funk Brothers and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
In 1975, Linda Ronstadt recorded a cover version of “The Tracks of My Tears” for her studio album Prisoner in Disguise that became a pop Top 40 hit in the US. The single was produced by Peter Asher and issued on Asylum Records as that album’s second single. Ronstadt’s version of the song was a success peaking at number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, reaching number 11 on the Billboard C&W chart in tandem with its B-side: the Emmylou Harris duet: “The Sweetest Gift”), and number 42 in 1976 on the UK Singles Chart.
Conversely, Ronstadt would score one of her biggest hits with her 1978 single “Ooh Baby Baby” which was a remake of the Miracles’ hit single release precedent to “The Tracks of My Tears”. Ronstadt and Smokey Robinson performed both “The Tracks of My Tears” and “Ooh Baby Baby” on the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special broadcast on May 16, 1983.
In 1967, “The Tracks of My Tears” was covered by Johnny Rivers. His version of the song reached number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Aretha Franklin recorded the song for her Soul ’69 album from which it was issued as a single although as the B-side. Franklin’s version of “The Weight”, became the favored track with “Tracks of My Tears” peaking at number 76 Pop and number 21 R&B.
In 1993, Go West reached number 16 in the UK Singles Chart with “Tracks of My Tears”.
A 1982 version by Colin Blunstone reached number 60 in the UK Singles Chart.
In 2000, American singer Pru sampled “The Track of My Tears” for her single “Candles”, which was released from her self-titled debut album. The lyrics and instrumental for “Candles” were directly inspired by The Miracles’ single.