Local songwriter pens an anthem for men
It’s February — the month of Valentine’s Day, chocolates, roses, romantic movies and love songs.
If you’re tired of mushy-gushy romance, however, Ronald Robinson has a new song for you: “Don’t Bring No Suitcase.” Released last December, the song Robinson co-wrote with musician Kenneth Parker is the antithesis of a love song.
Robinson, 66, became inspired to write it when a friend asked him why he always wrote love songs, which are typically more popular with women. The friend encouraged Robinson to write a song for a male audience instead.
While searching for inspiration, Robinson heard a song on the radio: “Irreplaceable” by pop star Beyoncé.
“It’s a women’s anthem telling guys they can be replaced,” Robinson said. “It was then I decided to write a song with an anthem for the guys.”
Robinson reflected on a typical dating situation: If a woman wants a relationship to become more serious, she might start leaving clothing or personal items in the man’s apartment, presumably to get him used to the idea of living together.
“The guy might see the clothing in his closet and say to himself, ‘I don’t mind these few pieces in the closet, but she’d better not bring a whole suitcase full of clothing,’” Robinson explained.
Robinson realized he had a good concept for the song: a guy who doesn’t want to make a commitment. He wrote the song lyrics, and Parker helped him develop the music — a Latin groove with a Santana-style guitar solo and even a rap section. Parker recorded the song with Rudy Walker, a Richmond-based singer/songwriter.
A romantic at heart
Someone listening to Robinson’s newest release might assume he is a perpetual bachelor, but “Don’t Bring No Suitcase” doesn’t reflect the songwriter’s own life or 20-year marriage.
“I don’t do a lot of writing from experience,” he said. “I’ve got no more than six or seven songs based on my own experiences,” he said.
That’s a small fraction of the more than 500 songs he has written. About 50 of those have been set to music and released.
Later this month, Robinson will release another song with a storyline very different from “Don’t Bring No Suitcase.” It’s a love song Robinson wrote to his wife to celebrate their 20th anniversary this April.
While Robinson likes to share his feelings through music, the husband and father of two said he doesn’t always feel comfortable being vulnerable in person.
“I can’t always express myself when talking to people,” he said. “But I can express myself in songs.”
Influenced by the Temptations
Robinson has loved listening to music and writing songs for much of his life. Years ago, Robinson managed a vocal group based in his hometown, Petersburg. That group, called A Touch of Charm, was known for playing Temptations-type music.
The group’s album, I Caught an Angel, includes covers like “Just My Imagination” as well as original songs. The album sold well, especially in Japan, where more than 4,000 copies were bought. In 1980, A Touch of Charm beat 77 East Coast groups in a contest sponsored by Black Entertainment Television.
Several years ago, Robinson celebrated his love of music by creating Can You Dig It! — a soul music trivia game. Modeled after Trivial Pursuit, the gameboard resembles a vinyl record.
“It’s a great way to learn about a very rich part of American music history,” Robinson said.
Writes children’s books, too
In the early 2000s, Robinson released a seven-song CD entitled Education Is the Key to Life. In those songs, he addresses topics such as illiteracy, teen pregnancy and other challenges facing youth in schools.
Robinson has also published two children’s books: Stanley the Talking Parrot and You’re a Dog, Chase. Before the pandemic, he would visit local schools to read his books aloud to students.
Robinson, who double-majored in psychology and sociology at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, retired in 2019 from many years working in corrections and then as a truancy officer for Petersburg and Richmond city schools.
When he himself was a student at Petersburg High School, Robinson played basketball with Moses Malone, who went on to play for the ABA and the NBA from 1974 to 1995. Their team won two back-to-back state championships.
After having both hips replaced, Robinson no longer plays basketball. He does, however, walk three to four miles a day and stays busy with his creative endeavors.
“Every morning I wake up, I say thanks,” Robinson said. “I don’t take life for granted.”