Song Lyric Sunday — Compare and Contrast

Our assignment for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday prompt from Jim Adams is to take two songs and discuss the association between them. For this study, I decided to go with two songs from Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: “Tracks of My Tears” and “The Tears of a Clown.”

Both of these songs are very similar variations on the themes of lost love, sadness, and tears. In the case of “Tracks of My Tears,” the singer pretends to be happy-go-lucky and the life of the party, but deep down inside he’s torn apart. His outward smile betrays his inner pain. His smile is his makeup he wears since she broke up with him, leaving the tracks of his tears.

Similarly, in “The Tears of a Clown,” his clown makeup puts a smile on the singer’s face in order to “fool the public” and to camouflage the sadness he feels deep down inside while he is shedding the tears of a clown.

“Tracks of My Tears” is about a man who tries to hide his pain, but cannot conceal the tracks made by his tears. He has come out of a relationship with the love of his life, and the song is his confession to her that his high spirits are just an act and she’s the only one for him. The Miracles’ leader Smokey Robinson came up with the concept for the song when he was looking in the mirror one day and thought, what if a person would cry so much that you could see tracks of their tears in their face?

The song was written by The Miracles members Smokey Robinson, Warren “Pete” Moore, and Marv Tarplin. It was a multiple award-winning 1965 hit for The Miracles, on Motown’s Tamla label. The Miracles’ million-selling original version has been inducted into The Grammy Hall of Fame and was selected by Rolling Stone Magazine as number 50 in its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Rolling Stone also ranked the song as “The Greatest Motown Song of All Time.”

“The Tears of a Clown” was written by Hank Cosby, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder and was originally recorded by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and, like “Tracks of My Tears,” it was also recorded on Motown’s Tamla label. It appeared on the 1967 album Make It Happen, but it wasn’t released as a single until 1970. The song was an international multi-million seller and a 2002 Grammy Hall of Fame inductee. Its success led The Miracles’ lead singer, songwriter, and producer Smokey Robinson, who had announced plans to leave the group, to stay until 1972.

Robinson based this song on the Italian opera Pagliacci, which is about a clown who must make the audience laugh while he weeps behind his makeup because his wife betrayed him. Stevie Wonder came up with the music for this song with a top Motown producer named Hank Cosby. They recorded an instrumental demo and asked Robinson to complete the song. Robinson listened to the song for a few days and decided it sounded like a circus, which is why he came up with the lyrics based on the clown. “I was trying to think of something that would be significant, that would touch people’s hearts, but still be dealing with the circus,” said Smokey. “So what is that? Pagliacci, of course. The clown who cries.”

Here are the lyrics to “Tracks of My Tears.”

Do do do do)
(Do do do do)
(Do do do do)
(Do do, do do do do)

People say I’m the life of the party
‘Cause I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughin’ loud and hardy
Deep inside I’m blue

So take a good look at my face
You see my smile looks out of place
If you look closer it’s easy to trace
The tracks of my tears

I need you (need you)
Need you (need you)

Since you left me if you see me with another girl
Seemin’ like I’m havin’ fun
Although she may be cute
She’s just a substitute
Because you’re the permanent one

So take a good look at my face, uh-huh
You see my smile (looks out of place)
Yeah, look a little bit closer
It’s easy to trace, oh the tracks of my tears

Oh-ho-ho-ho I need you (need you)
Need you (need you)

Hey hey yeah
(Outside) a masquerading
(Inside) my hope is fading
(Just a clown) ooh yeah, since you put me down
My smile is my make-up
I wear since my break up with you

Baby, take a good look at my face, uh-huh
You see my smile looks (out of place)
Yeah, just look closer it’s easy (to trace)
Oh, the tracks of my tears

Baby, baby, baby, baby
Take a good look at (my face)
Ooh, yeah you see my smile (looks out of place)
Look a little bit closer (it’s easy to trace)
Yeah, the tracks of my tears, oh yeah

Baby, take a good look

Here are the lyrics to “The Tears of a Clown.”

Now if there’s a smile on my face
It’s only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that’s quite a different subject

But don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
‘Cause really I’m sad, Oh I’m sadder than sad
Well I’m hurt and I want you so bad
Like a clown I appear to be glad ooh yeah

Well they’re some sad things known to man
But ain’t too much sadder than
The tears of a clown when there’s no one around
Oh yeah, baby baby, oh yeah baby baby

Now if I appear to be carefree
It’s only to camouflage my sadness
And honey to shield my pride I try
To cover this hurt with a show of gladness
But don’t let my show convince you
That I’ve been happy since you
’cause I need to go, oh I need you so
Look I’m hurt and I want you to know
For others I put on a show

Well they’re some sad things known to man
But ain’t too much sadder than
The tears of a clown when there’s no one around
Oh yeah, baby baby, oh yeah baby baby

Just like Pagliacci did
I try to keep my sadness hid
Smiling in the crowd I try
But in a lonely room I cry
The tears of a clown
When there’s no one around, oh yeah, baby baby
Now if there’s a smile on my face
Don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Don’t let this smile I wear
Make you think that I don’t care
‘Cause really I’m sad

16 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — Compare and Contrast

  1. Paula Light May 23, 2021 / 4:36 am

    Great choice, Jim! I like both songs, but tilt toward “Tears of a Clown” for my favorite. This was such a fun challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. talesfromthemindofkristian May 23, 2021 / 4:48 am

    Great songs. I’ve often thought of the similarity between those two songs. Unfortunately, the videos are blocked in the UK due to Copyright but I know them well.

    Liked by 1 person

      • talesfromthemindofkristian May 23, 2021 / 6:41 am

        I know, but at least they were songs I knew, otherwise I would have been driven mad not knowing! I’ll be posting my take later so here’s hoping you can see my links.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. J-Dub May 23, 2021 / 6:42 am

    Excellent choices today. Moving and grooving on a Sunday morning.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. newepicauthor May 23, 2021 / 6:49 am

    I bet that you have been the life of many parties with your analytical brain Fandango. Very nice choice of songs and you made a real a meaningful connection between these songs, which is just what I was looking for. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango May 23, 2021 / 4:06 pm

      Thanks, Jim. I thought a lot of the responses (including yours, of course) really were right on target.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Maggie May 23, 2021 / 9:00 am

    Ahhh, songs from one of my favorite eras. I wore both of these records out. I loved your choices and the comparisons you drew. Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango May 23, 2021 / 4:55 pm

      Thanks, Carol Anne.


  6. ghostmmnc May 29, 2021 / 12:57 pm

    Very good choices for the comparison. So similar, yet so different. I’ve liked both songs a lot through the years. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. leigha66 May 30, 2021 / 10:50 am

    Great songs for the comparison. Smoky Robinson has such a great voice.

    Liked by 1 person

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