DETROIT — Bobby Smith, longtime lead singer of The Spinners, died Saturday in Orlando of complications from pneumonia and the flu, his family said. He was 76.
Smith had been diagnosed with lung cancer in November.
Smith's final performance came in mid-February during the Soul Train Cruise, said Spinner Jesse Peck. Smith, who had missed several gigs since his cancer diagnosis, was present on the cruise but not expected to perform during The Spinners' set. Then the group began to perform its 1974 hit Then Came You.
"Like something out of a movie, Bobby shoots right out onstage and, showman that he is, grabs a mike and sings right on cue," Peck recalled. "The audience went bananas."
Smith joined the group in 1956 when it was known as the Domingoes. Frustrated with frequent misspellings, group members soon sought a new name, and it was the suggestion of Smith, a lifelong car buff, that won the day: "Spinners" was a nickname for high-end hubcaps.
Smith, whose first name was periodically spelled Bobbie, was lead voice on the group's first hit, 1961's That's What Girls Are Made For, produced with Harvey Fuqua, a link that led the group to Motown Records two years later.
Smith and the Spinners enjoyed only minimal success during their Motown tenure, but broke big after signing with Atlantic Records in 1971 at the suggestion of Aretha Franklin. A stream of hits followed with Smith's prominent vocals: I'll Be Around, Could It Be I'm Falling in Love, One of a Kind (Love Affair), Then Came You, Games People Play.
As the group maintained a busy touring and recording schedule, Smith left Detroit for New Jersey in the 1980s, later settling in Florida.
Henry Fambrough, the group's lone surviving original member, warmly remembered his friend and groupmate of more than half a century.
"Bobby was a regular, down-to-earth, good-natured person, the kind of guy who'd give you his shirt," Fambrough said. "And ever since I've known him, he was just a natural Smith often shared lead vocals with Philippe Wynne, who joined the group in 1972. Typically Smith would handle the beginning of a song and Wynne would take over with gospel-style fervor toward the end.
“Bobbie took the engine from zero to 70, then Philippe took it from 70 to 150,” said Thom Bell, who produced most of the Spinners’ biggest hits. But Smith, he added, “was the original sound throughout the entire career of the Spinners.”
Robert Steel Smith was born on April 10, 1936, in Abbeyville, Ga., and later moved with his family to Detroit.
In addition to his son Ron, Mr. Smith is survived by his wife, Lorraine; his sons Lamar and Richie White; his daughter, Vanessa Smith; four grandchildren; and one great-grandson. — (AP)
LOS ANGELES — Bobby Brown has surrendered to authorities and will begin a 55-day jail sentence for a driving under the influence conviction.
Brown's attorney and a spokesman for the city attorney's office say the R&B singer turned himself in at a Los Angeles courthouse Wednesday.
Brown pleaded no contest to driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license in February. He will also be required to serve four years on informal probation and complete an 18-month alcohol treatment program after he is released.
The conviction is Brown's second for driving under the influence in less than a year. He avoided jail after pleading no contest to a March 2012 drunk driving case.
The 44-year-old New Edition singer is the ex-husband of deceased singer Whitney Houston. -- (AP)
Want to live like Rocky Balboa? The Italian Stallion's house is on the market.
The home in South Philadelphia was featured in the 1979 movie "Rocky II." In the sequel to the Oscar-winning smash, the fictional boxer played by Sylvester Stallone buys the house after he loses a bout to Apollo Creed but gains renown for his toughness.
The 1,036-square-foot row house has three bedrooms and 1 1/2 bathrooms. Asking price: $139,000.
Real estate agent Joe Bianco says the home is for sale because the woman who lived there since the time of filming recently died.
He says the house was picked for "Rocky II" because the filmmakers "happened to like the front of the home and knocked on the door." -- (AP)
Deafening protests forced Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to abandon his annual budget address in the middle of his speech.
Nutter left City Council chambers on Thursday amid chants from union members angry about the lack of contracts. They shouted, blew whistles and stomped their feet to drown out his remarks.
Three of the city's four biggest unions have been without contracts since 2009. Last month, Nutter petitioned the state Supreme Court to intervene in the stalemate with District Council 33, which represents thousands of blue-collar municipal workers.
Nutter resumed his speech about an hour later elsewhere in City Hall as demonstrators protested outside the building.
The Democratic mayor introduced the city's nearly $3.8 billion budget for the next fiscal year. He also addressed a revamped property-assessment system. -- (AP)
The Philadelphia Eagles have released cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, just two years after he was the NFL's most sought-after free agent.
The Eagles announced the move in a statement Tuesday. General manager Howie Roseman says he and new coach Chip Kelly spoke to Asomugha and "he took the news with a lot of class." Roseman says the Eagles talked to Asomugha's agents at the NFL combine in Indianapolis last month about the cornerback's future with the team. "In the end," Roseman says, "Coach and I both felt we needed to move in a different direction at the cornerback position for 2013 and beyond."
Asomugha was due to make $15 million this season, including $4 million guaranteed, after signing a five-year, $60 million deal with the Eagles in 2011.
Asomugha signed with the Eagles a year after they won the NFC East in a big summer splash of transactions that appeared to give Philadelphia the inside track to at least a conference title. Asomugha joined defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin as part of the new-look Eagles defense, and quarterback Vince Young was brought in to back up Michael Vick. There were stars aplenty, on both sides of the field, and it seemed like the sky was the limit for coach Andy Reid's crew.
The Eagles, though, never came close to reaching their potential. They missed the playoffs in both seasons — including a 4-12 mark last year — and Reid was fired in January. Philadelphia allowed 444 points last season. Only New Orleans (454) was worse in the NFC.
Asomugha had just four interceptions as an Eagle. -- (AP)