Smokey Robinson may have been “America’s greatest living poet” (called so by none other than Bob Dylan, a compliment quite on a level with being called America’s greatest landscape artist by Stevie Wonder), but he didn’t half write some nonsense. Consider this deathless verse:

“Well, there’s some sad things known to man
But there ain’t too much sadder than
The tears of a clown
When there’s no-one around”

Now the question is, if there’s no-one around, how does Smokey know? Presumably other very sad things known to man, like the death of a puppy or the recent Happy Mondays reunion, are so known because they have been witnessed by man. But frankly in Smokey’s example we have only the clown’s word for it: perhaps his tears were in fact pretty meager, or even non-existent. Another concern is that the sadness of the tears in question is deeply dependent on the identity of the clown. If for instance a member of the Insane Clown Posse or their witless troupe of ‘juggalos’ were to meet with life-threatening misfortune it would be a cause for mass worldwide celebration, rather than any form of sorrow. In fact there are very few circumstances in which the tears of a clown would actually be sad. If he was weeping in horror in despair after hearing the song on yet another soundtrack of yet another gently nostalgic movie, perhaps: otherwise, it’s back to the garret and “Must Try Harder” for you, Robinson.