Back in 1990, there were three Motown compilations, now out of print, that I bought. 20 Hard to Find Motown Classics, Volume 1, like its two successors, featured songs by Motown singers who didn’t have enough hits to have their own “Greatest Hits” CDs. But most of the songs were hardly “hard to find.” Many had appeared in other Motown collections.
The three CDs were reissued together in 2001 in the UK as Tamla Motown: Big Hits & Hard to Find Classics, Vols. 1-3. A half dozen songs were dropped.
The first two songs on the first album were by a group called the Originals. The lead singer was Freddie Gorman, who was an early, and sometimes uncredited, songwriter for Motown. He also co-wrote (Just Like) Romeo and Juliet, which was recorded by another Detroit-based group, the Reflections.
Gorman joined The Originals, which was also comprised lead tenor C.P. Spencer, second tenor Hank Dixon, and baritone Walter Gaines. Despite the talent, was long unable to get a hit, and ended up doing backing vocals for folks such as Stevie Wonder and David Ruffin.
Marvin Gaye took a shine to the group who had also backed him. He and this then-wife, Anna Gordy Gaye, wrote Baby, I’m for Real. Marvin “had protested to Motown CEO Berry Gordy that he wanted to produce his own material and he used the Originals to help get his point across that he can provide a hit.” The song reached number one on the Billboard Top Black Singles chart for five weeks, and reached number fourteen on the Pop Singles chart, eventually selling over a million copies.
The follow-up, The Bells, was also produced by Marvin Gaye and was co-written by Gaye, Anna Gordy Gaye, Iris Gordy, and Elgie Stover. It featured the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, with Marvin on drums. The song went to #4 soul, #12 pop.