POP MUSIC / THOMAS K. ARNOLD : Motown Mover and Shaker Takes Stage at Fair Tonight

With the average price of a concert ticket these days somewhere around $20, the Del Mar Fair's grandstand concert series is indeed a bargain.

The $5 cost of getting into the fair includes free admission to the 15,000-seat grandstand, where a cavalcade of big-name pop stars performs each night, and most afternoons, through July 4.

If you haven't yet taken advantage of this great deal, tonight's the night to do so. Appearing on the grandstand stage at 7:30 will be Smokey Robinson, perhaps the most successful, and certainly the most influential, member of the Motown Records family of 1960s rhythm-and-blues hit makers.

Since Robinson's 1960 recording of "Shop Around" (with the Miracles) became the Detroit label's first national hit, his name has been synonymous with the much-ballyhooed "Motown sound" that dominated the charts for much of the ensuing decade.

Robinson's delicate falsetto helped the Miracles score more than two dozen other big hits, including "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "The Tracks of My Tears," "I Second That Emotion" and "The Tears of a Clown."

In the meantime, he also penned hits for a bevy of other Motown artists, among them Mary Wells ("My Guy"), the Temptations ("My Girl"), Marvin Gaye ("Ain't That Peculiar") and the Marvelettes ("Don't Mess With Bill").

Robinson left the Miracles in 1972 to pursue a solo career and take on additional duties as vice president of Motown Records. He continued to be a popular concert attraction, but his record sales fluctuated; he resumed his hit streak with 1979's "Cruisin' " and has periodically topped the charts ever since.

Robinson's impact on pop music goes beyond the Motown sound. Over the years, his tunes have been recorded by a diverse range of artists, including the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and Linda Ronstadt. Prince copied his trademark falsetto with much success; contemporary soul balladeers such as Jeffrey Osborne and Billy Ocean acknowledge Robinson as one of their role models.

No wonder, then, that Smokey Robinson was recently inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, joining such previous honorees as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Ray Charles.

Ever since Cindy Lee Berryhill wrote her first song--a mournful epitaph to dinosaurs called "Cretaceous Times"--as a precocious 10-year-old living in rural Ramona, she has consistently gone where no other neo-hippie folksinger-songwriter has gone before.

Instead of proselytizing about peace, love and save-the- planet existentialism a la everyone from Joni Mitchell to the horrid Edie Brickell, Berryhill takes herself, and the world around her, a lot less seriously.

She's an observer rather than a preacher, and, since she's not standing behind a pulpit, she's free to wander around and, well, wonder, like the rest of us.

And on "Naked Movie Star," her just-released second album on the nationally distributed Rhino Records label, she observes and wonders about everything from bums and hookers to past selves and trees. Her lyrics reflect the ponderous innocence of a childlike Weltanschauung steeped in a certain amount of fatalism; accordingly, her voice is at once girlish and wizened.

On "Trump," she refuses to indict megabuck New York slumlord Donald Trump; instead, she merely observes, and lets Trump indict himself: "I'll take Manhattan/If I could fatten up my salary/Soon there won't be any poverty/As far as I'm concerned/This great big town is a utopian dream/Just made for a man of means."

And on "12 Dollar Motel," Berryhill paints a stark portrait of the hooker life style: "12-dollar motel, Room 99/The mirror is cracked, that suits you fine/There's a broom in the corner throwing darts at the moon/There's a pink and green halo encircles the room/ . . . Ain't nothing here hip 'cept the hand on the pelvis/And the lady's red lip."

LINER NOTES: A July 12 release date has been announced by MCA/Curb Records for "Poor and Famous," the fourth album by San Diego roots rockers the Beat Farmers. The album will include a newly recorded version of singer-guitarist Joey Harris' "Hideaway," which he wrote more than a decade ago while touring with veteran folkie John Stewart. Earlier this year, producers of the current hit movie "Major League" heard a two-track demo of the song and liked it so much that they put it on the film's sound track LP.

Suffering from stress and exhaustion, legendary rock balladeer Gene Pitney has canceled all upcoming concert appearances for the next three weeks, including Friday night's show at Humphrey's on Shelter Island. Promoter Kenny Weissberg said he hopes to reschedule the show later this summer, just as he's done for the Natalie Cole show, which was to take place May 12 but is now on tap for Sept. 7 (May 12 tickets will be honored). . . . Just added to the Humphrey's lineup: Phoebe Snow, Sept. 10.

Limbo Slam is the first San Diego band to release a CD-only album, "Tropical Funk." The group will be playing, and debuting its album, tonight at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. . . . Exactly 21 years ago Thursday, local pop group Gary Puckett and the Union Gap hit the charts with what was to become their third million-selling single, "Lady Willpower."

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