Robinson said this year: “She’s a beautiful lady, and I love her right ’til today. She’s one of my closest people. She was young and trying to get her career together.”
They were two of the biggest stars in the world back in the 1960s, smashing down social and cultural barriers.
Four years older, Robinson had mentored the young Diana Ross when they were teenage neighbours in Detroit’s working class housing estates.
He had loaned her money for classes when she was originally an aspiring fashion designer and model, and was instrumental in bringing her to Motown.
After Robinson signed with Berry Gordy and found success as a performer and songwriter, he promised to introduce Ross and her group The Primettes to the boss of Tamla, later Motown, Records.
Robinson said: “I was trying to help her. I brought her to Motown, in fact.”
Gordy was impressed but thought the girls were still too young. Ross was barely 16 at the time.
Robinson had married Miracles singer Claudette Rogers in 1959, and by late 1960 was vice-president of the fast-growing Motown.
Ross and her group were always around Motown, eager to be involved, providing backing vocals or hand claps on recordings.
Robinson confessed to The Guardian: “I wasn’t going after her and she wasn’t going after me. It just happened… It was beautiful.”
In a filmed interview with Vlad TV, Robinson said: “It lasted probably longer than it should because I was married at the time, after I got them signed up at Motown.”
But it was Ross who ended the affair, Robinson admitted to The Guardian.
He said: “After we’d been seeing each other for a while, Diana said to me she couldn’t do that because she knew Claudette, and she knew I still loved my wife. And I did. I loved my wife very much.”
In fact, during those heady early Motown days, Ross would also have an even longer affair with Motown boss Gordy, too. It started in 1965 and he was the father of her first daughter, Claudette, who was born in August 1971.
Although Gordy was not married to another throughout the affair, two months after she discovered she was pregnant, Ross married music executive Robert Silberstein, who raised the child as his own.
Robinson said this year that Ross had changed his life: “I learned that we are capable of loving more than one person at the same time. And it has been made taboo by us. By people.”