Jan 09

SMOKEY ROBINSON – “Being With You”

FT + Popular48 comments • 4,292 views

#480, 13th June 1981

The problem with reviewing this kind of ultra-soft soul music isn’t simply that it’s functional; it’s not designed for solo listening. Either it’s music to play when you’re with the one you love, or it’s music to play when you’re thinking about being with them. If you’re concentrating on the music, in other words, you’re doing it wrong, and if it demands your attention, it’s doing it wrong. That fits a song presenting Smokey as someone so transported by love the rest of the world becomes a mildly annoying distraction. But it still leaves “Being With You” as one of the wispiest of hits, plenty of quiet but not enough storm.

It doesn’t have to be like that: done well, this kind of slow jam is genuinely evocative of love as mystery, a warming or taunting presence at the edge of your everyday consciousness. Smokey’s own superb “Cruisin'” ebbs and rises that way. But even if its murmuring chorus is memorable, and Smokey’s voice as creamy and philosophical as ever, “Being With You” doesn’t transmit its devotion well enough, and its undoubted loveliness winds up seeming inert.



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  1. 31
    Erithian on 14 Jan 2009 #

    Oh come on Henry, it’s a broad church here, variety’s the spice of life and all that. Just wait, before long we’ll be off on tangents about cricket, riots and the Royal Wedding. “Ebony Eyes” didn’t have anything to do with the old Everly Brothers tune, did it?

  2. 32
    rosie on 14 Jan 2009 #

    henry s @ 30: You are Marcello and I claim my five pounds.

    Did I mention that I think BWY is great and I like to listen to it all by my ownio? I thought not. I’ve been quiet lately as I have been poorly and my asthma has been playing up something rotten.

    8 from me.

  3. 33
    henry s on 14 Jan 2009 #

    Rick & Smokey’s “Ebony Eyes” had nought to do with the Everly Brothers…or Bob Welch, for that matter…or Deep Soul, really, but that didn’t stop Dave Godin from slipping it on one of his comps…

  4. 34
    peter goodlaws on 15 Jan 2009 #

    Bob Welch? He was one of the Great Train Robbers. No wonder Rick and Smokey’s “Ebony Eyes” had nought to do with him.

  5. 35
    Erithian on 15 Jan 2009 #

    For some reason I had Rick James confused with Rick Jones, the presenter of “Fingerbobs”. Now that would have been a digression for you, Henry!

    Good to have you back on board, Rosie, and hope you’re fully recovered.

  6. 36
    Martin Skidmore on 15 Jan 2009 #

    I never much cared for this, and I much prefer Sexual Healing – I think the comments are about the narrative voice being less appealing, and this is true, but that never bothered me (even though I think it almost certainly does reflect differences in the singers’ actual personalities). I guess I was so attached to songs like Tracks Of My Tears that this seemed feeble beside them. It is a pretty good song.

  7. 37
    Conrad on 15 Jan 2009 #

    A sublime performance on this understated little gem of a song. 7 from me.

  8. 38
    Malice Cooper on 15 Jan 2009 #

    I think it was rather obvious why Mr McEnroe didn’t go and dance with Chrissie. As far as he was concerned “The ball is out”

  9. 39
    henry s on 15 Jan 2009 #

    Erithian @ 35:

    completely understandable…the fact that Rick Jones used to begin each episode of Fingerbobs by declaring “I’m Rick Jones, bitch!” surely added to the confusion…

  10. 40
    Erithian on 15 Jan 2009 #

    Love it! That’s apparently what drinking seven cups of coffee a day does to you.

  11. 41
    peter goodlaws on 16 Jan 2009 #

    # 38 – Actually, Malice, you’re mistaken. McEnroe’s contention was that the ball was in fact “in”, as confirmed in his now world famous “Gullikson Soliloquy”:

    “You can not be serious, man,
    YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! (mit echo)
    That ball was orrrn the loinne,
    The chalk flew up,
    It was clearly in,

    Copyright J P McEnroe 1981

  12. 42
    DV on 26 Jan 2009 #

    I always think of this as one of those songs that is not about being in love but about being insane. For all the softy ballady nature of this tune, there is an edge of desperation to the singer. I cannot but think that the young lady in question is not returning his love and that he is singing to her as the cops come to take him away. Again.

  13. 43
    wichita lineman on 26 Jan 2009 #

    Alternatively, it is about Smokey’s drug of choice around 1981 (crack cocaine I believe) rather than a lady friend, and so fits into the same sliver on a venn diagram as The La’s’ There She Goes.

  14. 44
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 27 Jan 2009 #

    but as any fule kno “there she goes” is not about drugs!!

  15. 45
    hectorthebat on 10 Oct 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1980s (2001) 101
    Steve Sullivan (USA) – Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (2013) 701-800
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Village Voice (USA) – Singles of the Year 17
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 18

  16. 46
    Inanimate Carbon God on 26 Jan 2015 #

    You know those occasions when you’re too scared to click on the link in question? This is one of them.


  17. 47
    Mark M on 30 Sep 2017 #

    Listening to this just now, I think I realised for the first time that it’s got a slightly unusual structure. Rather than verse x3 then chorus x3 plus middle eight (or some variant of), it’s made up of a verse/chorus hybrid that he sings three times (starting with ‘I don’t care what they think about me’ and ending with ‘being with you/being with you’) interspersed with what a more like a pair of middle eights (the first one ‘Honey don’t go…’, the second, ‘People can change…’) than conventional verses.

    Which might contribute to what Tom thinks of as wispiness, and those of us who are keener on the song regard as its pleasing lightness of touch – in a sense, there IS less going on than you’d expect.

  18. 48
    Gareth Parker on 6 Jun 2021 #

    I actually really like this from Smokey. 8/10.

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