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The Top 10 Motown Hits, According To Pro Musicians

Motown. Detroit. The Motor City!

Berry Gordy founded Motown Records in 1959, and turned it into a hit-making machine that produced 79 top ten records between 1960-1969.

Its most famous songwriting team was Dozier and Holland who wrote hit after hit.

Motown was the first label to truly cross over the racial divided music charting system

Here are some classic Motown hits to get you through the day. Enjoy.

Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye

I Heard It Through The Grape Vine Marvin Gaye

Marvin, Marvin, Marvin.THE voice of a generation. Originally released by Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1966, and then 1968  by Marvin Gaye, both recordings reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

Its been listed as a top 500 song of all time on both The Rolling Stone and Billboard charts. Marvin Gaye’s version does it fo rme. How bout you?​

Listen to it here.

Whats Going On – Marvin Gaye

What's Going On Marvin Gaye

Motown was a dance soul party label until Marvin started writing and singing more political songs.

This one, penned by Renaldo Benson and Marvin Gaye, was a departure from the Motown ethos.

America at the time, was beset by racial injustice and violence, and the stinging loss of a war no one wanted in Vietnam. This song nailed the zeitgeist with a bullseye. The fact that the lyrics can be applied to today’s madness is a testament to the song’s universal appeal.

Listen to it here.

A Song For You – Donny Hatthaway

A Song For You Donny Hathaway

Young gifted and Black sang Donny Hathaway. He certainly was. A Song For You composed by Leon Russell in 1970 .

Donny was a master musician, pianist, arranger and immensely talented vocalist  who could move you to your core when you heard him. His version of Whats Going On is another great take but A Song For You must be in your collection.

Listen to it here.

My Girl – The Temptations

My Girl The Temptations

Smokey Robinson and Ronald White wrote this for The Temptations in 1964 and it became their first number 1 hit, as well as one of Motowns signature songs.

An instantly recognizable bass intro leads to a perfect climax at “I got sunshine- on a cloudy day”. Classic is an understatement.

Listen to it here.

I Want You Back – The Jackson 5

I Want You Back The Jackson 5

Yep, The Jackson 5 were part of the Motown roster of talents. I Want You Back was the first single released by Motown records in Oct of 1969.

It was certified number one in January 1970. It’s been sampled on hundreds of hip hop releases and continues to be a part of pop music vocabulary.

Listen to it here.

Stop in The Name Of Love – The Supremes

Stop! In The Name of Love The Supremes

Another number one for Motown in the Spring of 1965. The Supremes recorded this superb piece of  music before the band became Diana Ross and The Supremes.

It was performed on TV with some choreographed  dance moves which included one hand on the hips while the other motioned STOP.

Motown may have pioneered the music video in many of their choreography.

Listen to it here.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye

Ain't No Mountain High Enough Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Released by  Marvin and Tammi in 1967  and then in 1970 by Diana Ross. Written by Ashford and Simpson, who themselves went on to successful Motown recording careers,  the song has been used in countless films, tv episodes and commercials. Listen to both versions. Which one do you prefer?

Listen to it here and here.

Superstition – Stevie Wonder

Talking Book Stevie Wonder

Unmistakable from the first four notes. Played by every bar band from Manila to Miami.

Stevie Wonder, still going strong today, has written and recorded more hits for Motown than any other artist. He began there as a 12 year old, singing, drumming, playing harmonica. The rest as they say, is a musical journey still in progress.

Superstition, from the record Talking Book reached #1 in January of 1973. Stevie plays drums, clavinet, synth bass and handles the vocals as no one else can while blending soul, funk and rock elements together.

Listen to it here.

Tears Of A Clown – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Tears of a Clown Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

A smash #1 hit on both sides of the pond, Tears of A Clown has Motown signatures written all over the place.

Stevie Wonder wrote the music and Smokey Robinson came up  with the lyrics, commenting on the section that sounded like a calliope, suggesting a circus or a clown theme.  This led to the idea of the clown who hides behind his makeup.

Listen to it here.

Dancing in The Street – Martha and The Vandellas

Dancing in The Street Martha And The Vandellas

A rollicking good time track that, like many Motown songs, has been covered and released by several artists including Van Halen, David Bowie and Mick Jagger, The Grateful Dead and, The Kinks among others.

While on one level a literal call to dance, it was also seen as an anthem of the call for social justice and societal change. On another level, just a great dance tune.

Listen to it here.

Motown. Detroit Michigan. Changed the face of popular music. This list will get you started. More to come. Stay tuned.