There are songs, and then there are timeless classics. These are the songs that sing to your soul, that capture the beat of your heart and get your feet tapping to that beat. Soul classics capture the meaning of love and heartbreak and get you dancing in abandon.
Berry Gordy Jr. was the visionary, who created one of the biggest record labels – he founded Motown Records in 1959. Artists that Gordy developed like the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye, dominated the music scene in the 1960s and ’70s.
Here is a list of the best of Motown:
“Everybody Needs Love”
by Gladys Knight And The Pips
“Everybody Needs Love,” released in June 1967 on Motown’s Soul label, was Gladys Knight And The Pips’ first Top 40 pop hit for the company. It was co-written and produced by Norman Whitfield
Though Gladys has the vocals that could blow down buildings, she preferred to use them subtly. This silky treatise about love and desire, previously recorded by The Temptations, is filled with such emotion; it is the most sensual interpretation.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
by Marvin Gaye And Tammi Terrell
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was a pop song written in 1966 by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. It was one of the greatest soul records of all time, melding gospel roots with soul music to create “a musical backdrop that swooped from gentle valleys to staggering highs.”
The original 1967 version sung by Marvin and Tammi, was a top twenty hit. They never sounded better, and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” became their signature duet.
The song was also recorded in 1970 by Diana Ross, becoming her first solo number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100, but it was the Gaye/Terrell version, which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
“What’s Going On”
by Marvin Gaye
“What’s Going On,” sung by American recording artist Marvin Gaye was released in 1971 by the Motown Records-subsidiary label Tamla. The song was composed by Gaye, Renaldo “Obie” Benson, and Al Cleveland based on a police brutality incident at a street protest witnessed by Benson.
Marvin, the 60s soul romantic, grows in the 70s into a man who is aware of the world around him; it was full of exploitation, fear, and resentment.
“What’s Going On” was the African-American hit of 1971, topping the Hot Soul Singles chart for five weeks and making number two on the Billboard Hot 100, selling over two million copies.
“Stop! In The Name Of Love”
by The Supremes
“Stop! In the Name of Love” was recorded by The Supremes in 1965 for the Motown label. “Stop!” was written and produced by Motown’s finest production team: Holland–Dozier–Holland.
The lyrics, “I’m aware of where you go,” sent the message that it’s no use sneaking around – The Supremes knew what you were up to. The song serves as both a warning and a plea to be treated better.
“Stop! In The Name Of Love” entered the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1965, debuting at No. 80 and topping the charts within five weeks.
by Diana Ross
The world-famous Supreme queen, Diana Ross’s 1980 meeting with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the disco maestros of Chic, did not go smoothly – she took the liberty to remix the album they created for her.
But it was worth arguing over when it resulted in a tune like this. In September 1980, “Upside Down” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks.
“End Of The Road”
by Boyz II Men
Motown’s biggest hit for years came from the Philadelphia group, Boyz II Men. L.A. Reid and Babyface co-wrote the lyrics to the song with Daryl Simmons. The pair also produced it.
Boyz II Men’s 1992 sound was styled after classic vocal soul.
On 15 August 1992, the Motown release, “End Of The Road,” hit No. 1, and spent three months at the top of the charts. The 13-week run broke Elvis Presley’s 1956 record. Their record was broken soon after by Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”