Smokey Robinson’s wild mispronunciation of ‘Chanukah’ is the gift that keeps giving

Smokey Robinson
Motown great Smokey Robinson botched the pronunciation of Hanukkah in a viral Cameo greeting.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision/Associated Press)

Motown legend Smokey Robinson somehow managed to go eight decades without realizing that Hanukkah can also be spelled Chanukah. Now he’s getting a chance to redeem himself after mispronouncing the Jewish holiday in a video greeting commissioned for a fan.

It was the alternate, Hebrew-style spelling of Hanukkah — Chanukah — that the “Cruisin’” singer garbled in a recording posted Sunday on Twitter.

Robinson, 80, emphasized the digraph “ch” sound and inadvertently concocted a made-for-the-internet viral moment, pronouncing it “Cha-NOOK-ah.” Like everyone else, he admitted that he had “no idea what Chanookah is” when he recorded the message on Cameo, a service that allows people to order personalized video greetings from celebrities.

“Hey @jeffjacobson — in the spirit of 2020, I’m gonna need a do-over! Please DM your mother’s phone number so we can try this again,” the “I Second That Emotion” crooner tweeted Monday in a message to Jeff Jacobson, the Vancouver-based fan who commissioned the Cameo for his mom.


Jacobson’s video featuring Robinson’s gaffe went viral when he shared the botched greeting.

“My mom grew up on the same street as Smokey Robinson in Detroit. So for Chanukah, I wanted to reunite them via @Cameo,” Jacobson wrote. “But the video takes a strange twist.”

Singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson has a new Audible memoir in which he performs intimate new renditions of some of his signature hits.

Nov. 18, 2020

The strange twist was that of the tongue. But the Talent Bureau cofounder didn’t seem to mind and even championed the music icon.

“By the way, @smokeyrobinson can pronounce it any way he damn well pleases. He is a true legend whose music has been with me since birth. His kindness and generosity of spirit has already made this most-unusual 2020 Chanukah one of my family’s most memorable. Also, my mom says hi,” Jacobson wrote in a thread.

On Monday, Jacobson took up Robinson on his offer for a do-over, adding: “But you owe her and us nothing. We love you!”


Robinson kept his word and called Jacobson’s mother directly, as seen in a video Jacobson tweeted Tuesday. It was, as Jacobson put it, “a Chanukah miracle.”

“The main thing is, Smokey, I love you dearly. Honest to God, you made my day and millions of people’s [day],” she said, extending a dinner invitation to the “Quiet Storm” singer if he’s ever in Vancouver.

Robinson is one of many celebrities earning money via Cameo, where he charges $350 to make personalized videos on request — proper pronunciation not guaranteed.

Earlier this month, the app’s cofounder and chief executive, Steven Galanis, revealed that Cameo’s top earner for 2020 was “The Office” actor Brian Baumgartner, who played daft accountant Kevin Malone on the NBC sitcom. Baumgartner earned a whopping $1 million by recording messages to fans on the app, People reported.


The online festivities include latke-making classes, sing-alongs and a puppetry performance.

Dec. 2, 2020