Final week of February – I’m sure that everyone who’s counting down the days to spring are happy that it’s right around the corner. Those that have gardens will be kicking it in gear to get those ready, right?
When Berry Gordy founded Motown Records in 1959, few people could have predicted how it would soon transform the entire music industry. Gordy had a remarkable ear for talent and within months, he joined forces with many of the greatest songwriters, musicians and singers in the country.
Before the first year was over, Motown scored their first major hit with Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want).” Over the next several decades, the tiny label dominated the airwaves and album charts, launching the careers of everyone from Diana Ross to Michael Jackson to Boyz II Men.
Naturally I’m going to start off this week’s Motown theme with the first major hit – only I discovered a mashup of it with Bruno Mars’ Billionaire – so we’ll go with that. This was from when Bruno Mars was just getting noticed, before everyone fell in love with him and his music.
Fun Fact: Bruno tried out for American Idol Season 3 but was turned down during the initial screening process. The reason? Because he sounded and danced too much like Michael Jackson. I know, right?!
Fantasia won that year – but I bet Bruno would have given her a run for her money had he been on the show.
Give a listen to the amazingly talented Bruno Mars with “Money (That’s What I Want) & Billionaire Mashup”:
Next up is a song that happens to be one of the most famous songs in the vast Motown catalog, but it almost didn’t make it onto shelves. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles in 1966, but Berry Gordy didn’t like the result.
Gladys Knight and the Pips recut the song later that year, and Gordy agreed to release the results.
This artist recorded his own version in 1968, but it initially wasn’t a single. Radio stations began playing the album track, and soon enough Motown put out this artist’s version on 45. It flew to the top of the charts and stayed there for weeks.
Here’s Marvin Gaye with “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”:
The Temptations were a very different group when they went into the studio to record this next song compared to how they were seven years earlier with their previous hit. Several members had parted ways, so the new lineup faced a very different musical atmosphere.
Psychedelic soul was all over the radio, but Motown was keeping up with the times and producers Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote a stupefyingly funky song about an absentee father.
Contrary to widespread belief, Dennis Edwards’ father didn’t die on the third of September; he died on the third of October. Still, it was close enough to enrage the singer, though he ultimately agreed to sing the song. It shot to Number One on the Hot 100 and was their final monster hit.
Without further ado, here’s Daryl Hall and Train with “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”:
Speaking of The Temptations – they were a popular act before they released this next song, one that forever changed the vocal group. This Smokey Robinson-penned song was their first to cross over into the Top 10 on the Hot 100, ultimately reaching Number One.
It established the volatile David Ruffin as their new lead singer, and it showed the label that they were worthy of getting the very best material. It kicked off an incredible run of hits over the next decade, though this song remains their signature tune to this day.
Here’s The Temptations with “My Girl”:
This next song, originally released in 1961 (where it reached #4 in the charts), ultimately became a timeless classic when it was used as the theme song for a movie in 1986.
Even though it was released in 1961, I don’t think it technically falls under the ‘Motown’ umbrella, but I’m invoking that ‘timeless’ mode because I like it. The Rob Reiner movie by the same name stars River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman & Jerry O’Connell, based on the short story by Stephen King.
I had totally forgotten that Wil Wheaton was in this movie – the other three are more notorious. Seeing this music video makes me want to go back and watch the movie again, with my favorite dudes as youngsters.
That’s a wrap for this week – have a great Monday!
Now on to the particulars of Monday’s Music Move’s Me: I have the supreme honor and privilege of being a co-host with the inimitable Xmas Dolly and our musical cohorts, Callie from JAmericanSpice, and Naila Moon from Just the Stuff Ya Know.
Want to join in the fun? It’s easy – just find a tune that rocks your boat, post it and link up – don’t forget to grab Xmas Dolly…er, um, I mean her button…over at her place here. Check out Xmas Dolly’s sidebar for the random themes we sport each week – and you can always ask for a specific theme of music you like, too. Check out the other music lovahs and let’s jam!