Posts Tagged ‘Motown’

Before Motown artists Martha and the Vandellas made it big, they sang background vocals on several of Marvin Gaye’s hits. Martha Reeves worked as a Motown secretary. They experienced major success in the first half of the 1960s with Dancing in the Streets and their signature hit, Heat Wave.

Watchout!, released in 1966, is the fourth studio album and fifth album overall by the trio, and oddly the only one I own (present tense, in vinyl). The group at that point was Martha Reeves on lead vocals, Rosalind Ashford, and Betty Kelly, who replaced Annette Beard in 1963.

You can tell that the label had already decided I’m Ready for Love was going to be the hit, based on the different colored lettering on the record jacket. Jimmy Mack, though, was just about as big, and the one I remember more fondly. Both songs were written by the legendary Holland/Dozier/Holland songwriting team, who also created hits for the Supremes and Four Tops, who would leave Motown shortly thereafter.

Still, my favorite song on the album was the non-single No More Tearstained Makeup, written by the incomparable William (Smokey) Robinson. It’s the second verse that really nailed me:

Like a storm my tears have rained
since your shirt was lipstick-stained
and the stains that it contained were not my color.
No sponge has quite the power
to absorb the constant shower
of the tears pancake and powder could never cover.
But today as I look in the mirror
I see things a whole lot clearer.

Elvis Costello is also a fan of the song.

Listen to No More Tearstained Makeup
original here or here
a slower version, not used here
someone’s extended play here
Marvelettes cover (1970) here

Listen to
I’m Ready for Love, #2 soul, #9 pop in 1966 here or here
Jimmy Mack, #1 soul, #10 pop in 1967 here or here

The odd thing about Super Freak by Rick James from 1981 is that I read ABOUT it a lot, but I didn’t actually HEAR it very often, due in part, I was led to believe, by its then-controversial subject matter.

And while it’s #481 in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame list, it wasn’t his highest charting single. He had several hits starting with 1978’s You and I. Of course, what gave Super Freak a second life is when M.C. Hammer used it, with permission, as the basis of U Can’t Touch This. James got a Grammy out of the deal.

He collaborated with fellow Motown artists such as Smokey Robinson (Ebony Eyes), and The Temptations. The Temps sing background on Super Freak. James is featured on Standing On The Top, from their REUNION album, when the group briefly had seven members rather than five.

Rick James, born James Ambrose Johnson, Jr., was an upstate kid, born in Buffalo, New York. He was in various bands before joining the Navy Reserve, mostly out of fear of being drafted. But he took off to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where he formed the rock band the Mynah Birds, which, for a time, featured Neil Young.

His music career ground to a halt when the “military authorities discovered his whereabouts and eventually convicted James on a one-year prison term related to the draft charges. After being released, James moved to California where he started a variety of rock and funk groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

Unfortunately, success did not bring joy. He reportedly spent $7000 a week on cocaine for five straight years. He was convicted of assaulting two women in the early 1990s, and spent a couple years in jail. “After divorcing his first wife, he married Tanya Hijazi on December 24, 1997 and they divorced in 2002.”

Then he died of a heart attack on August 6, 2004 at the age of 56. He would have been 70 on February 1, 2018.

Listen to:

You and I – #13 pop, #1 soul for two weeks in 1978 (long version)

Mary Jane – #41 pop, #3 soul for two weeks in 1978

Super Freak – #16 pop, #3 soul for five weeks in 1981

Standing On The Top (Temptations featuring Rick James)– #66 pop, #6 soul in 1982 (long version)

Cold Blooded (long version) – #40 pop, #1 soul for six weeks in 1983

Ebony Eyes (Rick James featuring Smokey Robinson) – #43 pop, #22 soul in 1984

Loosey’s Rap (Rick James featuring Roxanne Shante)– #1 soul in 1988, looking very Prince-like

U Can’t Touch This (M.C. Hammer) – #8 pop, #1 soul in 1990 but it felt WAY more ubiquitous than that

Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland

Lamont Dozier is “one of the greatest songwriters of the last century. His writings have been covered by a huge array of performers over the decades.

“As part of Motown’s Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team, the trio scored 25 top ten pop hits between 1963 and 1968, which included the Supremes,” the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, and Martha and the Vandellas.

That link well tells Lamont’s progression from vocalist to becoming part of a writing and production team with Eddie Holland and his brother Brian. Success followed big time, but eventually HDH left the Motown roster, writing more songs.

Lamont Dozier recalls he and Brian [Holland] came up with “Band of Gold” and “Give Me Just a Little More Time”, but “we didn’t put our names on ’em because we were in a lawsuit and couldn’t use our names.”

There’s a description of Heaven Must Have Sent You… the Holland/Dozier/Holland Story anthology, which lists some of their biggest hits, with a tease of those songs at the website. HDH were interviewed when that came out.

The trio was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

“Lamont is married to Barbara Ullman Dozier and has 3 children (two sons and one daughter with Barbara).
His sons are named Beau Alexandre and Paris Ray and his daughter is named Desiree Starr.”

Listen to:
(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave – Martha & the Vandellas
Mickey’s Monkey – The Miracles
Can I Get a Witness – Marvin Gaye
Quicksand – Martha & the Vandellas
Leaving Here – Eddie Holland

When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes – Dusty Springfield
Where Did Our Love Go – The Supremes
Baby I Need Your Loving – The Four Tops
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You) – Marvin Gaye
Nowhere to Run – Martha & the Vandellas

Back in My Arms Again – The Supremes
I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) – The Four Tops
Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While) – Kim Weston
It’s the Same Old Song – The Four Tops
This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You) – The Isley Brothers

Love’s Gone Bad – Chris Clark
Reach Out I’ll Be There – The Four Tops
Heaven Must Have Sent You – The Elgins
I’m Ready For Love – Martha & the Vandellas
(Come ‘Round Here) I’m the One You Need – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

Standing in the Shadows of Love – The Four Tops
Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone – The Supremes
Jimmy Mack – Martha & the Vandellas
Bernadette – The Four Tops
Give Me Just a Little More Time – Chairmen of the Board

Band of Gold – Freda Payne
Don’t Do It – The Band
Forever Came Today – The Jackson 5
My World Is Empty Without You – Lamont Dozier
You’ve Got It – Simply Red, written by Lamont Dozier

More Supremes songs can be found at the 20140306 post of this blog.

‘The Supremes A’ Go-Go’ Reissue: Mary Wilson, Lamont Dozier Look Back on the Landmark Girl Group Album.

For ABC Wednesday

Among the wealth of artists that performed on the Motown labels in 1960s, I probably know about Junior Walker the least. He was born Autry DeWalt-Mixom, Jr. in Blythesville, Arkansas on 14 June 1931. He grew up in South Bend, Indiana.

He started his band, the Jumping Jacks, and his good friend, drummer Billy Nicks, had a group, the Rhythm Rockers, but the two would play on each other’s gigs. Since Nicks had a local TV show in South Bend, he asked Walker to join his band.

When Nicks got drafted, Walker convinced the group to move to Battle Creek, Michigan. After some personnel and name changes, the All Stars were signed by Harvey Fuqua to his Harvey records. “Fuqua’s labels were taken over by Motown’s Berry Gordy, and Jr. Walker & the All Stars [the usual spelling] became members of the Motown family, recording for their Soul imprint in 1964.”

The group’s first big hit was “Shotgun” in 1965, which “uses only one chord throughout the entire song — A-flat seventh. Other songs featuring this same structure (or non-structure) are Chain of Fools and Land of 1000 Dances.” The song is in the Grammy and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. The All Stars were in a particular groove. The song appeared in several movies, including Malcolm X.

I have this Motown LP box set that explains that there was a songwriter – it doesn’t identify who, but it was either Johnny Bristol, who discovered the group; Fuqua, who took Bristol’s suggestion; or a guy named Vernon Bullock. The songwriter pitched the song to Junior, but he said it wasn’t his thing.

The next year, the songwriter said he still had that song, and Walker reluctantly agreed to record “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” in 1969. “A Motown quality control meeting rejected this song for single release, but radio station DJs made the track popular, resulting in Motown releasing it as a single.”

Junior Walker died of cancer on 23 November 1995 at the age of 64 in Battle Creek.

Listen to:

Shotgun, #4 pop, #1 rhythm & blues for four weeks in 1965 here or here

(I’m A) Road Runner, #20 pop, #4 r&b in 1966 here or here

How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), #18 pop, #3 r&b in 1966 here or here

What Does It Take (To Win Your Love), #4 pop, #1 r&b for two weeks in 1969 here or here

These Eyes, #16 pop, # r&b for two weeks in 1969 here or here

Urgent (Foreigner, with Jr. Walker on sax solo), #3 pop in 1981, here or here

Urgent, 1983, appears in 1985 movie Desperately Seeking Susan, here or here

Round 20 of ABC Wednesday.

David, Melvin, Paul, Otis, Eddie

David, Melvin, Paul, Otis, Eddie

There are lots of groups out there that have the name of an old-time group, but with Otis Williams in the Temptations, the link to the original group is sustained.

“Williams was born Otis Miles, Jr. in Texarkana, Texas to Otis Miles and Hazel Louise Williams… While he was still a toddler, his mother married and moved to Detroit, Michigan, leaving the younger Otis Miles to be raised by both of his grandmothers in Texarkana. Hazel Williams moved her son to Detroit when he was ten years old, where he lived with his mother and his stepfather.”

The history of The Temptations is way too complicated to go through here, but Otis was in several groups, honing his craft. The original lineup of group called The Temptations was Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Elbridge “Al” Bryant, Eddie Kendricks, and Paul Williams (no relation). Read the rest of this entry »

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