(Written by Smokey Robinson)
William “Smokey” Robinson may have been Motown’s Vice-President, and one of the label’s top songwriters, producers and performers – but his protegées, the acts he himself brought to Hitsville, had a poor track record despite his involvement. His friend Mickey McCullers had seen his fine, Smokey-penned début single Same Old Story bomb on release; now, it was Linda Griner’s turn.
A pretty teenage vocalist with a surprisingly slinky voice, Griner had picked up lots of club experience before being picked as the local support act for the Miracles at a show in Washington DC; Smokey watched, impressed, from the wings, and promptly signed her up (verbally) immediately after the show, taking her straight back to Detroit to meet Berry Gordy and sign a formal contract.
Once Linda got to Hitsville, though, the story turned sour. At 15, Linda was deemed too young to sign a full Motown contract, and this may have contributed to this single and its B-side, both cut during the same session in June of 1962 (right smack in the middle of Smokey’s calypso-inspired run of hits with Mary Wells, the Supremes and of course the Miracles), being the only examples of Linda’s Motown material that have officially surfaced (despite rumours of a whole LP’s worth of cuts, all written and produced by Smokey Robinson, existing in the vaults somewhere, this information having been disclosed about ten years ago apparently with the sole purpose of driving collectors nuts) – and even these two sides not seeing release for another seven months, by which time the momentum had apparently gone. According to Linda’s website at www.lindagrinermusic.com, she went back to school before signing a proper contract with Motown, “and the rest is history” – but I don’t know what that means, because to date this is her one and only official Motown release, and it sold bog-all copies before disappearing from view for years until the Northern Soul crowd picked it up.
All a bit of a shame, as Good Bye Cruel Love (the title is incorrectly listed as “Goodbye Cruel World” on some pressings, but this is an error) is good stuff, and on this evidence Linda could have cut a whole string of excellent Motown singles. Discovering new Smokey Robinson songs is always fun, and this one is a nice little surprise. Featuring the Miracles (according to the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 3) on backing vocals, it’s a bright, sassy, midtempo bit of pop fluff; if the sort-of-chorus that crops up at the end of each verse doesn’t quite scan (I’ve got to move on / Oh yeah, I’ve got to move on), this is a minor nitpick, as the whole thing just glides along on a bed of horns and guitar (indeed, it relies on the saxophone more than any of Smokey’s previous songs that I can think of, opening with a big creamy burst of sax and then featuring that instrument doing “stings” throughout, not to mention a fine solo in the middle). Linda does well enough with it, too; she still sounds very young, but (as with Mary Wells) there’s a knowing edge to her voice that makes her sound twice her age, and makes it all the more surprising when her youthful diction does break through.
Hardly a masterpiece or anything, but a refreshing little early soul treat, and enough to make you wonder what might have happened if Miss Griner had been able to stick around at Motown.
It wasn’t the end of the story for Linda, of course, who – as well as still being musically active (and, if her website’s anything to go by, gorgeous, but that’s by the by) today – enjoyed a lengthy recording career in the Sixties and Seventies as “Lyn Roman”, recording a whole stack of fine records on various labels, among them a disco anthem for the ages in Stop, I Don’t Need No Sympathy for Carl Davis on Brunswick in 1974, which should have been number one for three months.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)
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