Bobby Smith Spinners, 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.
The funeral will take place Monday in Detroit, where Smith will be interred, said the group’s Jessie Peck.
Smith’s final performance came in mid-February during the Soul Train Cruise, said 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 recounted. “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.