BOBBIE SMITH (AP File Photo)
by Todd Leopold
(CNN) — Bobbie Smith, who as a member of the Spinners sang lead on such hits as “I’ll Be Around” and “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” has died. He was 76.
Smith died Saturday of complications of pneumonia and the H1N1 flu virus, according to a statement from Nat Burgess, the Spinners’ manager.
The Spinners were one of the longest-lived bands in pop music, with the core of the group having formed in the 1950s. Three members of the group — Smith, Willy Henderson and Pervis Jackson — met in a Detroit-area high school, and were later joined by Henry Fambrough and C.P. Spencer.
It was Smith who came up with the name, he told Gary James of classicbands.com.
“All my life I loved cars,” he said. People “would round off the front, the hood or change the grille. They would lower ‘em in the back. They called ‘em bubble skirts and in the front they would have these big chrome hub caps. Cadillac hubcaps, and they called ‘em spinners. So that’s how we got the name … from a hubcap.”
The group was signed to a small local label, Tri-Phi, by R&B legend Harvey Fuqua and his soon-to-be wife, Gwen Gordy. Tri-Phi was later taken over by Motown, owned by Gordy’s brother, Berry.
An early hit, “That’s What Girls Are Made For,” featured Smith on lead vocals.
But the Spinners never found their niche at Motown, often working around the office while other male vocal groups on the label — including the Four Tops, the Temptations and the Miracles — went on to major success.
“When we were at Motown and we had a hit, we wouldn’t get another record released for another year. So now you’re playing catch-up,” Smith told James. “When you get a hit, you gotta keep popping ‘em out there, you know. And so, we felt like we got lost in the shuffle at Motown.”