The Motown Sound is regarded as the defining sound of the 1960s pop, R&B, and soul music. The tambourines, driving bass lines, and gospel-influenced vocal harmonies became the Detroit studio’s distinctive musical style for many fans.
Motown artists were known for their polished style, sharp wardrobes, and crisp dance routines. The sleek and sophisticated sequined dresses for the women and the high-style suits, shirts, and shoes for the men were all custom-made uniforms.
To many, Mary Wells was the Queen of Motown and Smokey Robinson, the King. We pay tribute to them and other legends of Motown.
“My Guy” by Mary Wells
“My Guy,” written by Smokey Robinson, was Mary Wells’ smash hit for Motown and her last solo recording for the label. She was the label’s first female soul icon and was also the first to leave it. After that, her professional career was as turbulent as her private life.
Rumour has it that the intro to the song was actually the music band messing around – they were tired after a long day. Yet, that sound, together with Wells’ husky voice, produced a sure-fire smash hit. It topped Billboard Hot 100 in May 1964.
“My Girl” by The Temptations
“My Girl” was written and produced by Ronald White and Smokey Robinson. Smokey wrote the song with background singer David Ruffin in mind. He saw Ruffin as The Temptations’ untapped resource.
Smokey wrote “My Girl” as a kind of reply to his song “My Guy” – Mary Wells’ smash hit in 1964. His wife, Claudette, was the inspiration for the lyrics. The opening riff and David Ruffin’s powerful vocal ensured a smash hit, becoming the Temptations’ first number 1 single and their signature song.
“Every Little Bit Hurts” by Brenda Holloway
Brenda Holloway’s “Every Little Bit Hurts” was written by Ed Cobb. The LA teenager recorded it two years earlier, but it went unissued. She reluctantly re-recorded the song for Motown, and it soared.
“Every Little Bit Hurts” was released as Brenda’s Motown debut in 1964, and the haunting song has since become a popular music standard. The song peaked at No.13 on Billboard Hot 100. The song has been a part of Alicia Keys’ repertoire and was also sung by Aretha Franklin, Petula Clark, The Clash, Teena Marie, and The Jam.
“Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” by Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder’s 1965 classic soul song, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” was the first of his songs that he co-wrote for the Tamla(Motown) label.
The song “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” was his biggest hit at the time, and the album of the same name was regarded as Stevie’s breakthrough. The lyrics were about a poor boy falling in love with a rich girl. Stevie returned to the theme of “opposites attract” in later songs. The song peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and reached the top of the Billboard R&B Singles chart for five weeks in 1966.
“I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5
“I’ll Be There,” released by Motown Records in 1970, was recorded by The Jackson 5. Berry Gordy, Hal Davis, Bob West, and Willie Hutch co-wrote the song.
“I’ll Be There” solidified The Jackson 5’s careers showing audiences that the group had potential beyond bubblegum pop. It was the group’s fourth consecutive number 1 hit, selling 4.2 million copies in the United States alone. It remains one of their most popular hits.