Motown, the iconic record label that coined the name of an entire genre, has left an indelible mark on the last century of music. With its unique blend of pop-infused soul, Motown laid the groundwork for future genres like funk, rock, and pop. The influence of Motown's music can still be heard today, making it a timeless treasure in the world of music.
In this article, we will explore some of the best Motown songs that have captivated audiences for decades. From the smooth melodies of Marvin Gaye to the infectious harmonies of the Temptations and the Supremes, these songs have become classics that continue to resonate with listeners of all generations.
1. "You Really Got a Hold on Me" by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
With its irresistible opening line, "I don't like you, but I love you," this song has become one of the most covered in music history. Influenced by Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me," Smokey Robinson transformed the source material into pure gold .
2. "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye
Written in 1971, this song remains sadly resonant today. It was originally penned by Renaldo Benson of the Four Tops, who witnessed police brutality against peaceful protesters. Marvin Gaye took the song and made it his own, producing it himself and releasing it without the approval of the label's head executive. Its success gave Gaye the freedom to explore his artistic vision further.
3. "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" by The Temptations
The Temptations, undisputed royalty of the '60s, delivered hit after hit with their amazing harmonies. "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" is a song that is impossible to resist, making it nearly impossible to keep still when you hear it .
4. "I Want You Back" by Jackson 5
Led by the young Michael Jackson, the Jackson 5 stole America's heart with this funky pop hit. The song's perfect bassline continues to live on, sampled in hip-hop songs by artists like Kriss Kross and Jay Z.
5. "Stop! In the Name of Love" by The Supremes
A Billboard chart-topper and one of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll," this 1965 tune is remembered for its catchy lyrics and iconic choreography.
6. "Please Mr. Postman" by The Marvelettes
Not only was "Please Mr. Postman" a number one hit for The Marvelettes in 1961, but it was also Motown's first single to reach the coveted top spot. The song's popularity was reignited when The Beatles covered it, and it became a number one hit once again when The Carpenters released their rendition .
7. "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" by Stevie Wonder
Choosing the best song by Stevie Wonder is a seemingly impossible feat, but "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" embodies the soulful essence of Motown. Its irrepressible energy is undeniable, making it a timeless classic.
8. "Reach Out I'll Be There" by The Four Tops
Happiness isn't just an illusion when this song plays. The Four Tops, one of Motown's biggest groups, created their undisputed most popular song with "Reach Out I'll Be There".
9. "I Second That Emotion" by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Written by frontman Smokey Robinson, this song became a hit for The Miracles and later for Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Temptations when they performed it as a group duet. It showcases the star power of Motown's talented artists.
10. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
This duet between Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell was a Top 20 hit and has become an iconic song. Despite recording their parts separately, their harmonies created a timeless masterpiece. Diana Ross later had a number one hit with her version of the song, even earning a Grammy nomination for her spoken-word rendition.
11. "Money (That's What I Want)" by Barrett Strong
This song marks a crucial moment in Motown history. Co-written by Motown founder Berry Gordy, it became the record label's first hit, climbing the R&B charts and reaching Number 28 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1960.
12. "My Girl" by The Temptations
Co-written by Smokey Robinson, one of Motown's greatest performers and songwriters, "My Girl" is a sweet and innocent love song executed flawlessly by The Temptations. It exemplifies the timeless appeal of Motown's music.
13. "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas
Long before David Bowie and Mick Jagger made it a duet, "Dancing in the Street" had people shimmying to its infectious tune. Released in 1964, it became a street anthem that continues to bring joy to listeners.
14. "War" by Edwin Starr
Originally recorded by The Temptations in a gentler version, this protest hit found its true power when given to Edwin Starr. With the force of a young James Brown, Starr's 1970 version became one of the quintessential records of the era .
15. "Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas
Released in 1963, "Heat Wave" set the tone for the Motown sound with its blend of soul and pop. Its tight harmonies and upbeat perspective made it an instant hit on both the Hot 100 and R&B charts.
16. "You Can't Hurry Love" by The Supremes
Inspired by a '50s gospel number, this song became one of Diana Ross and the Supremes' signature hits. Its catchy melody and relatable lyrics struck a chord with audiences.
17. "Uptight" by Stevie Wonder
Released when Stevie Wonder was just 15 years old, "Uptight" put the young artist back on his legendary trajectory. This top 10 hit, which Wonder co-wrote, showcased his talent and marked a turning point in his career.
18. "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" by Marvin Gaye
Released in 1964, this pop-influenced song helped make Marvin Gaye a household name. Its sweet and catchy melody has made it a timeless favorite among fans.
19. "Bernadette" by The Four Tops
This song offers a dramatic look into the psyche of a jealous lover who sees everyone, including his friends, as potential threats to his relationship. Frontman Levi Stubbs' impassioned voice brings the story to life .
20. "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" by Jimmy Ruffin
Jimmy Ruffin's heartfelt rendition of this song reflects the pain of heartbreak and the search for love. Its sincerity resonated with audiences worldwide, making it a hit in America, Canada, England, and France.
21. "It's a Shame" by The Spinners
Co-written by the legendary Stevie Wonder, this song became the biggest hit for The Spinners. Its soulful tune embodies the spirit of Motown and showcases the band's talent.
These songs represent just a fraction of the incredible music that Motown has given us. Their timeless appeal and enduring influence continue to shape the music industry to this day. Whether you're a fan of soul, pop, or rock, these Motown classics are sure to captivate your heart and soul.
So sit back, relax, and let the legendary voices of Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, and the Supremes transport you to a world of timeless melodies and unforgettable harmonies. Let the magic of Motown sweep you off your feet and remind you why these songs have stood the test of time.
Note: This article is a tribute to the incredible artists and their music. The information provided is based on historical facts and the author's appreciation for the songs.