December 14, 2014
The short instrumental intro to “My Guy” is still instantly recognizable if you are of a certain age.
Mary Wells was the first artist to enter a recording studio for the legendary Motown label. Her single “The One Who Really Loves You” was the first top 10 hit in Motown history. And on May 16, 1964, her “My Guy” was the first number one song for the label where it remained for two weeks.
Her time with Motown was short. She signed at age 17 and left when she was 21 due to a disagreement over royalties. She would never again enjoy the success she had with Motown.
She passed away in 1992 from cancer leaving behind one of the signature non-British songs of the mid-1960’s.
April 12, 2013
Sometimes Mary Wells, 1943-1992, just slides under the radar when one thinks about the Motown label but she was one of its shining stars during its early days. She was signed to Motown at the age of 17. She was the first artist to record a top ten hit and was the first to reach number one with “My Guy,” which was her signature tune.
She would release three top ten singles during 1963. The second of the three, “You Beat Me To The Punch,” was issued during the late summer and peaked at number nine on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Hot 100. It also topped the Rhythm & Blues Chart.
She would chart 13 Pop Chart singles, 1961-1964, before leaving the label. She would chart ten more singles for various labels, 1965-1965 and would pass away from throat cancer in 1992.
June 29, 2012
The Miracles formed at Northern High School in Detroit during 1955. The original group consisted of lead singer Smokey Robinson, Emerson Rogers, Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White, and Bobby Moore. Emmerson Rogers left before their first hit and was replaced by Robinson’s future wife, Claudette Rogers.
The Miracles, with and without Smokey Robinson as the front man, would place 46 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, 1959-1975.
“The Tracks Of My Tears” was one of the group’s and Robinson’s signature songs. Released during the early summer of 1965, it rose to number 16 on the BILLBOARD Pop Chart.
After leaving the Miracles Robinson embarked on a aolo career that has lasted down to the present day.
June 27, 2012
“Since I Lost My Baby” may not be one of the best known songs by The Temptations or one of their biggest hits but it was one of their best.
David Ruffin supplied one of the better vocal performances of his career to the Smokey Robinson penned lyrics. Robinson produced the track and added strings and a thumping bass that were smooth and tough at the same time.
Released during the late summer of 1965, it rose to number 17 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. A song well-worth finding.
May 2, 2012
During the 1960s the Motown label was primarily known for its smooth soul music that bordered on pop. Every once in awhile, however, they would move in a raw rhythm & blues direction.
Enter the Contours; Billy Gordon, Billy Hoggs, Joe Billingslea, Sylvester Potts, Huey Davis, and Hubert Johnson who were anything but smooth.
“Do You Love Me” was a a grtty R&B screamer that was catchy enough to stay in you mind for days. Released during the summer of 1962, it topped the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Rhythm & Blues Chart and peaked at number three on the Pop Charts.
Proving that a good song is always a good song, it was included in the 1988 movie, DIRTY DANCING. Released as a single it re-entered the Pop Charts and peaked at number 11.
April 26, 2012
Levi Stubbs, Renaldo Benson, Lawrence Payton, and Abdul “Duke: Fakir performed and recorded together as the Four Tops with any changes in personnel for close to 50 years.
The Motown label liked to control the material their artists released and had a formula they used many times in the srudio. “Reach Out I’ll Be There” was one of the few songs that managed to escape that formula.
The legendary songwriting team of Holland-Donzier-Holland enlisted the Four Tops to record one of their best creations. The song just assaults the senses and uses a counter-melody to push the song along and the rhythm section sounds like a symphony. Through it all Levi Stubbs lead vocal floats above the harmonies.
Released during the summer of 1966, it spend two weeks as the number one song on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.
It remains one of the best single releases in American music history.
April 24, 2012
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” is one of the classic songs in American music history and one of the best singles ever to reach the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.
In just over three minutes there are horns, female backing voices, some strings, and a bass/drum foundation which all suppot Gaye’s, gritty at times and silky at others, vocals.
The lyrics are a painful journey in the search for personal truth and Marvin Gaye’s vocal provides just the right emotion.
It first reached the BILLBOARD Chart, November 23, 1968, and ultimately would spend seven weeks in the number one position. It was the number two song of the year, (Hey Jude by The Beatles was number one), but ranked as the number six biggest hit of the decade.
An essential listening experience.
April 12, 2012
R. Dean Taylor was a Canadian singer/songwriter who was hired by the Motown label as a producer/songwriter/singer. He would co-write such singles as “Love Child” by The Supremes, “All I Need” by The Temptations, “I’ll Turn To Stone” by The Four Tops,” and “Im Livin’ In Shame” by Diana Ross and The Supremes.
Today he is best remembered for his own single, “Indiana Wants Me,” which was issued on the Motown subsidiary label, Rare Earth. It was released during the late summer of 1970 and peaked at number five on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart in the United States.
It was a song about a murderer wanted by the Indiana police. It came complete with the sound of sirens. It actually was a better listen than it sounds. He would place three more songs on the singles chart but never crack the top 50 again.
January 22, 2012
The Supremes were on a roll from mid-1964 to mid-1965 with five number one singles in a row. Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson sat near the top of the music world.
They released “Nothing But Heartaches” July 31, 1965. It was an up-tempo and smooth pop song, which was similar to their past hits. The music industry can be funny at times as it only reached number 11 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. Their next release, “I Hear A Symphony,” would return them to the top of the charts.
The Supremes remain one of the most successful pop groups in history with 47 chart singles and 12 reaching number one.
December 22, 2011
John was big; John was bad, and he had made a recording star out of a future pork sausage king. “Big Bad John” by Jimmy Dean had topped the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart for five weeks, but its reign came to an end when the Motown Label had its first number one pop.
The Marvels were a female rhythm & blues female vocal group from Inkster High School in Inkster, Michigan. The early group line-up consisted of Gladys Horton, Georgeanna Marie Tillman, Wanda Young, Katherine Anderson, and Juanita Cowart Young. They entered a talent contest where the top three places would gain an audition with the Motown label. They finished fourth but were invited to the try-out anyway, and so The Marvelettes were born.
Their first release for Motown subsidiary Tamla would prove historic for the label as it would reach number one on the pop charts, the first single to do so in the label’s long and storied history. The drummer on the original recording was future star Marvin Gaye.
“Please Mr. Postman” was typical of many of the hits The Supremes and Martha and The Vandellas would produce down through the years for the label. It had tight harmonies backing Horton’s lead vocal, a funky instrumental track that served as a counterpoint for the pop oriented vocals, plus in this case told the story of a girlfriend waiting for a letter from her boyfriend who was away at war. It all added up to a memorable radio song of the pre-Beatles era. It also proved that a good song is always a good song as the Carpenters took it to number one again during 1975.
The Marvelettes managed to issue a very modern sounding song, especially when compared to much of what Motown was producing early in their history. It also marked the beginning of the label’s appeal to a white audience as it managed to bridge the gap between pop and rhythm & blues. While the song is still recognizable today, many times its historic nature is forgotten.
The Marvelettes would place 23 singles on the pop charts during the 1960s, but would quickly be superseded by such artists as The Supremes, Temptations, Four Tops, and their old drummer Marvin Gaye. They would record a number of memorable songs but none as successful as “Please Mr. Postman.”