Smokey Robinson Promotes Australian Pop Group Singing Motown’s Songs

An Australian pop quartet’s music really got a hold of Smokey Robinson.

Motown Records’
signature vocalist loved Human Nature’s take on the legendary label’s
standards so much that he signed on as the group’s official presenter
and helped facilitate a lengthy run for it at the Imperial Palace hotel
in Las Vegas.

Now, the guys are heading out for their first U.S. tour, which kicks off Saturday in – where else – Detroit.

Nature (brothers Andrew and Mike Tierney and fellow high school
classmates Phil Burton and Toby Allen) have released nine albums, five
of which went to No. 1 in their native country.

opened for Celine Dion and Michael Jackson in Europe and Australia and
performed the national anthem at the Summer Olympic Games in their home
city of Sydney in 2000.

But it was their 2005 Motown tribute, “Reach Out,” that attracted the attention of Robinson.

came to the studio one night in Los Angeles … and sang for me a
cappella with no music – just them singing – and blew me away, man. Just
awesome,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer told The Associated Press in a
phone interview. “I am so enamored with them.”

thanks in part to Robinson’s backing, the group nailed down an
exclusive booking at the Imperial Palace, where they have played five
and six nights a week to sold-out crowds for the past two-and-a-half

The group is moving beyond Nevada with
the 10-city tour, which will take them to Washington, New York, Chicago
and Boston through May 6. Add to that a PBS special – featuring Robinson
– that began airing in December and a CD of Motown covers that was
released earlier this month, and Human Nature is well on its way to
expanding its influence beyond its roots in Oceania.

only does the group have Robinson to thank for its stateside successes,
but also the music of Motown, which enjoyed its heyday nearly a
half-century ago but has been embraced by generations of listeners drawn
to its timelessness.

So, what could these
guys possibly bring to the music that hasn’t been done better by
Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and company?

have put their own touch on (the songs),” Robinson said. “They sing the
Motown music, but they do it like Human Nature does it.”

For their part, Human Nature simply loves singing the songs.

“Our roots lie in American soul,” Andrew Tierney said. “It’s the ultimate market for what we love.”

may seem strange on the surface that this particular group is helping
to carry on the Motown legacy. But considering the label’s reputation
for busting through color barriers, it does make sense.

should people listen to four white Australians sing these songs when
they’re ubiquitous on radio and TV?” Andrew Tierney said. “It just shows
that this music is written for everybody and that it has reached to
every corner of the globe, including Australia. And it’s still
influencing people, just as it touched us.”

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