“The Tears of a Clown” was released on the 1967 album Make It Happen The song was written by Smokey Robinson, Hank Cosby, and Stevie Wonder.
According to Robinson, Stevie came to him with the song’s backing track (the same one heard in the recording), and asked him to come up with lyrics. The overall tone of the song reminded Smokey of a circus theme, and as a result, tried to think of circus-themed lyrics. He was reminded of the story of Pagliacci, which he heard when he was a child, and wrote the story around that. However, he wrote the song from the perspective of a person who compares themselves to a/the clown, rather than Pagliacci himself, as to connect more with the listener.
In July 1970, the song was re-released in the UK as a single, where it charted at #1 on the UK Singles Chart. When the song was later released in the US, it not only topped the Billboard Hot 100, but the R&B Singles charts as well. It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002, and subsequently convinced Smokey to stay another two years before departing from The Miracles.