The 56 Greatest Motown Songs To Get You Dancing In The Avenue

Drawn from a decades-long catalogue that’s a present that retains giving and giving, the most effective Motown songs not solely outlined their period, they continue to be timeless examples of basic pop. That Berry Gordy turned his impartial Detroit-based soul imprint into one of many largest document labels of all time is achievement sufficient. That its songs nonetheless sit among the many biggest and most soulful ever recorded is testomony to the relentless high quality of the artists and songwriters Gordy employed. Right here we’ll present you why.

Check out some of the greatest soul albums on vinyl here.

Table of Contents

56: Heatwave (Martha Reeves & The Vandellas)

When you’re searching for an ideal instance of “The Motown Sound,” you’d be hard-pressed to discover a higher one than 1963’s “Heatwave.” With doo-wop vocals, a hefty backbeat, and loads of horns, that is the basic sound of the label.

55: Limitless Love (Lionel Richie & Diana Ross)

One of many biggest duets ever, this Lionel Richie-penned tune topped the Billboard charts for 9 weeks. It’s an ideal marriage of two distinct and gifted voices. The film for which it was written is basically forgotten right this moment, however the music can be remembered eternally.

54: It’s a Disgrace (The Spinners)

The Spinners would go off to document extra for Atlantic Information, however you may perceive why Motown wished to get in on the bottom flooring of this gifted vocal group. This tune, co-written by Stevie Marvel, was the group’s most profitable music for Motown, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard R&B chart.

53: This Previous Coronary heart of Mine (Is Weak for You) (The Isley Brothers)

The Isley Brothers solely recorded songs for Motown for a short while, however they made a mighty impression with this pleading Holland–Dozier–Holland gem. It will go on to be coated numerous occasions within the following many years.

52: Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) (Marvin Gaye)

Marvin Gaye’s poignant music concerning the setting solely turns into extra related as time goes on. Whereas the sentiment was downcast, it resonated with listeners on the time (it almost reached the highest of the Billboard charts) and right this moment (the album from which it was taken, What’s Going On was named the #1 document within the 2020 Rolling Stone record of the most effective albums of all-time).

51: I Can’t Assist Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) (The 4 Tops)

This large hit for The 4 Tops wasn’t only a No. 1 on the Billboard Sizzling 100. It’s since been one of many tracks utilized in numerous TV reveals and movies to face in for the Nineteen Sixties as a decade, guaranteeing that this Motown music will proceed to resonate for generations to come back.

50: Get Prepared (The Temptations)

An anthem from the primary hitmaking part of The Temptations’ profession, when their songs had been laid on by Smokey Robinson – a positive signal of soul of the very best order. Assertive, highly effective, and groovy, this 1966 smash is superbly delivered by the nice Eddie Kendricks.

49: Can I Get A Witness (Marvin Gaye)

The basic Motown sound was beginning to totally circulate by the top of 1963, when “Can I Get A Witness” was launched. However you may nonetheless hear a robust present of R&B and an undertow of gospel on this thrilling floor-filler and all-time mod mover.

48: Needle In A Haystack (The Velvelettes)

An early marker of success for up and coming super-producer Norman Whitfield, this irresistible single was considered one of simply two US Sizzling 100 entries for a woman group signed to a document firm awash with them. Maybe The Velvelettes wanted extra consideration, or to shout louder – however they certainly had expertise to spare.

47: There’s A Ghost In My Home (R Dean Taylor)

One doozy of a catchy music, penned by Motown backroom legends Holland-Dozier-Holland alongside Canadian singer Richard Dean Taylor. With a refrain pushed into your mind by a guitar like an indignant hornet, this has the pop style of 1967 throughout it. A wild model provided a much-needed UK hit for The Fall in 1987.

46: Shotgun (Junior Walker And The All Stars)

Junior Walker – aka Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr – was Motown’s main horn-playing star, assured to kick up a rumpus, but delicate, too. His hoarse voice fronted a slew of hits, together with this guttural dance-craze romp (it fits The Pony).

45: Dancing In The Avenue (Martha And The Vandellas)

Was it about dancing or riots? Both means, “Dancing In The Avenue” was an anthem. Martha Reeves and her soul sisters ship a music you’ve heard again and again – however it nonetheless sounds improbable. We’re all invited.

44: Take Some Time Out For Love (The Isley Brothers)

They gained approval for serving to to alter soul within the 70s by including rock guitar, and did the unique model of “Twist And Shout” (later coated by The Beatles on their debut album, Please Please Me). In between, they taped completely wonderful information at Motown, equivalent to this bruising 1966 dancer.

43: Everyone Wants Love (Gladys Knight And The Pips)

Although she possesses pipes that would blow down buildings, Gladys Knight prefers to make use of them subtly and, from the get-go at Motown, appeared extra grownup than her contemporaries. This silky 1967 treatise on need, beforehand recorded by The Temptations, is without doubt one of the finest Motown love songs.

42: Nonetheless Water (Love) (4 Tops)

“Nonetheless Water” was written by Smokey Robinson and producer Frank Wilson, and launched in two kinds, “Love” and “Peace.” Filled with the spirit of common love pervasive in youth tradition from 1967, this 1970 single ought to have made greater ripples than it did. By way of sound, it heralded what was to come back on Marvin Gaye’s basic What’s Going On album.

41: Tremendous Freak (Rick James)

Earlier than “U Can’t Contact This” there was “Tremendous Freak,” a badass hunk-a punk-funk that had Rick James using excessive in 1981. Nastay as a busted tooth, slick as an oil spill, this Motown music kicks butt.

40: Routinely Sunshine (The Supremes)

There was lots of life in The Supremes after you-know-who stop. “Routinely Sunshine,” using a superb little bass run, finds the women within the masterly supervision of Smokey Robinson, who created a considerate but nonetheless danceable sound that was each modern to 1972 and true to Motown’s basic values.

39: Smiling Faces Typically (The Undisputed Fact)

One among Motown’s finest paranoid psychedelic funk songs penned by Norman Whitfield and lyricist Barrett Robust. First recorded by The Temptations, however an enormous hit for The Undisputed Fact in 1971, right here’s the hard-edged facet of Motown, superbad and hard.

38: Preserve On Truckin’ (Eddie Kendricks)

And right here’s a extra rolling groover: a US solo No.1 for the previous excessive tenor of The Temptations. It used a motto of the early 70s which grew to become much more well-liked following the music’s 1973 launch, adorning T-shirts and badges throughout the US and UK.

37: Superstition (Stevie Marvel)

Stevie Marvel’s all-time clavinet killer riffed its means into historical past in 1972, and has thrilled (and suggested) listeners ever since. Affirmation that the junior genius had matured – after which some.

36: Acquired To Give It Up (Marvin Gaye)

Regardless of chopping a lot of his finest information through the disco period, Marvin Gaye didn’t make many precise disco information. “Acquired To Give It Up” was an exception, and it confirmed he might have been the king of the four-to-the-floor model if it had suited him. A US No.1 in 1977, and nonetheless a membership basic.

35: Upside Down (Diana Ross)

The world-famous Supreme queen’s 1980 assembly with disco maestros Stylish was not with out controversy: she remixed the album they created for her. However when a music like this was the consequence, it was price arguing over.

34: If I Had been Your Lady (Gladys Knight And The Pips)

Gladys Knight casts an eye fixed over a love she’s misplaced – and is aware of she might do higher than his lady. Extremely passionate music from 1970, with a extremely romantic pulse.

33: You’re All I Want To Get By (Marvin Gaye And Tammi Terrell)

Marvin’s third vocal companion, Tammi Terrell, gave him one thing dazzling to bounce off, and each singers shine on this wonderful affirmation of affection gone good, laid in 1968. Some feelings stay everlasting.

32: I Was Made To Love Her (Stevie Marvel)

The second part of Stevie’s profession noticed him creating among the most life-affirming Motown songs of the 60s, and this hymn to Ms. Proper nonetheless lifts the guts. What a voice; what a soul.

31: Battle (Edwin Starr)

First recorded for The Temptations’ Psychedelic Shack album, Edwin Starr took “Battle” to a far angrier place in 1970, and it grew to become an anthem for many who opposed the Vietnam Battle. This Motown music has since been revived at important junctures, with covers by Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Bruce Springsteen. However the not-quite authentic is the most effective!

30: Store Round (The Miracles)

Smokey Robinson’s group had a pleasant line in hand-me-down recommendation songs earlier than he grew to become the king of emotional metaphors, as this miraculous sliver of 1960 R&B testifies. Mama is aware of finest: don’t fall for the primary lover you meet.

29: Cash (That’s What I Need) (Barrett Robust)

Within the mid-60s, Barrett Robust grew to become the lyrical lynchpin for the symphonic songs of Norman Whitfield, however earlier than that he was fairly one thing as a singer-songwriter, delivering this large financial smash in 1961, as coated by The Beatles on their With The Beatles album.

28: Please Mr. Postman (The Marvelettes)

Sticking with the R&B finish of Tamla Motown, right here’s the label’s first No.1, stylishly delivered by Gladys Horton and the women from Inkster, Michigan. That letter she wished in all probability held a 1961 gold document.

27: Love Little one (Diana Ross And The Supremes)

Holland-Dozier-Holland, who’d virtually written The Supremes’ rise to fame, had stop the label, and the group couldn’t afford to slip. So, in 1968, the Motown machine set about making a music to make the beloved trio completely modern. The consequence was this arresting story of ghetto love.

26: Simply Stroll In My Footwear (Gladys Knight And The Pips)

The ruler of the tear-soaked grownup ballad, Gladys Knight donned her dancing footwear for her debut Motown single, launched on its Soul imprint in 1966. The music is a hovering, fiery name to the ground penned by the highly-skilled Lewis sisters. Stroll in her footwear? These pumps gonna strut.

25: Does Your Mama Know About Me (Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers)

Motown was by no means in need of materials that solid a male singer as unsure a few relationship, however the 1968 hit “Does Your Mama Know About Me” touches a distinct nerve, as a once-bitten, twice-shy Taylor wonders whether or not his ethnicity will see him rejected by his new love’s household. Set to a lilting waltz association, this bittersweet story of hysteria is rarely resolved – appropriately, as {couples} nonetheless face the identical drawback.

24: What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye)

A good query, Marvin, as the thin 60s soul romantic grows into a person conscious that the world round him is stuffed with exploitation, worry, and loathing. Co-written by 4 Tops’ Obie Benson after he’d seen police brutality at a road protest, “What’s Going On” was the African-American hit of 1971, coated by jazz musicians, reggae singers, and funkateers alike.

23: Quiet Storm (Smokey Robinson)

Composed by Smokey and his sister Rose, “Quiet Storm” was not an enormous pop hit, however it represents two issues: a brand new style of soul, which gave radio programmers an modern format referred to as, sure, Quiet Storm; and Motown coming to phrases with the very fact its music was not solely for teenagers and events anymore. Smokey, as ever, is touching. Sink into his silky gentleness and lose your self.

22: Brick Home (Commodores)

Remembered right this moment as the right beginning place for Lionel Richie’s large profession and a bevy of mellow ballads, Commodores earned their silver star and sleeve braid with paaartay funk, and this grasp jam, sung by Walter Orange, saved freaks on their ft for years. “Brick Home”’s curious praise for a “mighty mighty” feminine, with lyrics penned by Shirley Hanna-King, spouse of the band’s hornsman William King, was a US smash in 1977. Ow!

21: Love Hangover (Diana Ross)

Diana doesn’t need Alka-Seltzer. Overlook the hair of the canine. She is reveling in her passion-jaded situation, delivering a trophy-grabbing disco masterpiece, exhibiting the likes of Donna Summer season and Gloria Gaynor who’s The Boss. Co-written by Pam Sawyer, who’d been fashioning songs for Ross since “Love Little one,” this is without doubt one of the finest disco information ever made.

20: Finish Of The Street (Boyz II Males)

Kinda ironic that Motown’s largest songs for years got here from a Philadelphia group. However Boyz II Males’s 1992 New Jack Swing sound was styled after basic vocal soul, Motown included. “Finish Of The Street” spent 1 / 4 of a 12 months at US No.1, and Boyz II Males went on to beat that efficiency, twice!

19: Each Little Bit Hurts (Brenda Holloway)

One other slowie, 1964-style. Brenda Holloway, the LA teenager who gave Motown the contact of sophistication its founder, Berry Gordy, craved, had recorded “Each Little Bit Hurts” two years earlier, however it went unissued. When it lastly noticed the sunshine of day, it soared.

18: Ooo Child Child (The Miracles)

Smokey Robinson And The Miracles replicate on their amorous error and beg for forgiveness. Shockingly, “Ooo Child Child” was not a UK hit, although it made US No.16 in 1965. Since then it has develop into considered a complete basic of Motown balladry.

17: The Hunter Will get Captured By The Recreation (The Marvelettes)

Extra Smokey magic, this time as a tunesmith alongside fellow Miracle Pete Moore. Wanda Younger, in The Marvelettes’ lead singer’s position, had set a “tender entice” for a fella, however love “hit me like a sudden slap,” turning the tables. With a moody chord sequence and haunting harmonica, “The Hunter Will get Captured By The Recreation” was some of the authentic hits of 1967.

16: Reflections (Diana Ross And The Supremes)

With Diana’s title now in lights, The Supremes set about tackling the issue of delivering soul in a psychedelic 12 months (1967) – by making a psychedelic soul document. Apparent, actually. Throbbing, grinding, and otherworldly, that is Ross in inside area, chasing goals and illusions, whereas regretting wasted love as ever. Awe-inspiring.

15: I Need You (Marvin Gaye)

Marvin is overwhelmed by need within the title monitor of his 1976 album, I Need You, produced and co-written by Leon Ware. When you’re not within the temper, this will nearly be too intimate – however who isn’t within the temper when Marvin begins to sing?

14: Heaven Should Have Despatched You (The Elgins)

Produced and penned by Holland-Dozier-Holland, this fabulous single was the one huge hit for The Elgins, a highly-accomplished vocal outfit. It made US No.50 in 1966 – and needed to wait till 1971 to develop into a UK No.3. The music was so good, Bonnie Pointer gave it a disco refurb for her debut Motown album, later within the 70s.

13: Simply My Creativeness (Operating Away With Me) (The Temptations)

A dreamy – actually, daydreamy – ballad that was Eddie Kendricks’ parting present to The Temptations, as he turns this story of a deluded fantasist right into a fan’s dream come true. It was additionally a goodbye to Paul Willaims: soul occasions had been altering in 1971.

12: Attain Out I’ll Be There (4 Tops)

4 Tops’ 1966 monster, with Levi Stubbs straining each sinew to let you recognize he’s standing by, able to catch you if you fall. What a man. What a single.

11: My Man (Mary Wells)

That keening horn at the beginning calls you to a 1964 Motown music that may be a sure-fire smash hit. Written by Smokey Robinson, this was Mary Wells’ largest hit for the label – and kind of marked the top of her tenure there. Heard so typically, it nonetheless sounds brilliant and alive.

10: My Woman (The Temptations)

Smokey replied to his personal music for Mary Wells with this excellent document, Robert White’s easy however efficient guitar determine contrasting superbly with David Ruffin’s highly effective vocal. Tender but sprightly, it’s considered The Temptations’ theme music.

9: Sir Duke (Stevie Marvel)

Stevie’s 1976 tribute to the swing jazz giants who impressed him as a child is delivered with such pleasure that it might have been the work of “Sir” Duke Ellington himself – although far funkier. A cheerful and wonderful 1977 No.1.

8: Cease! In The Identify Of Love (The Supremes)

Ain’t no use sneakin’ round, boy; The Supremes know what you’re as much as in a music that serves as each a plea for being handled higher and as a fierce admonition. The usage of the phrase “charms” is completely poisonous. If the fella took no discover, he’s received no soul.

7: The Tracks Of My Tears (The Miracles)

One other miracle from Smokey, this confessional wailer was a No.10 US hit in 1965 – however ought to have been greater. Issues should not what they appear, admits Smokey, a subject he additionally handled in “Tears Of A Clown.” His ache was our acquire.

6: I Need You Again (Jackson 5)

Filled with beans, Michael Jackson and the remainder of the boys from Gary, Indiana, break huge with their first Tamla single, sounding like a junior Sly And The Household Stone crossed with a teenage Temptations. Launched in 1969, a chart-topper in 1970, and the beginning of a legend.

5: What Turns into Of The Brokenhearted (Jimmy Ruffin)

The brother of The Temptations’ lead singer grabs his probability with a desolate story of a land of loneliness. All the time greater in Britain than he was within the US, Ruffin nonetheless made US No.7 with a Motown music that activates the soul faucets till his cup of distress overflows.

4: I Heard It By means of The Grapevine (Marvin Gaye)

Marvin wasn’t the primary singer to document “I Heard It By means of The Grapevine,” and wasn’t the primary to hit with it, that plaudit going to Gladys Knight And The Pips. However his slower, altogether extra spooked model was the one which caught, little question helped alongside by Jack Ashford’s refined tambourine. It stays considered one of Motown’s finest songs.

3: Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone (The Temptations)

The Undisputed Fact did it first, in 1972, however The Temptations landed the smash hit the next 12 months with this model stuffed with badass badness. The group apparently had doubts about dissing their “dads,” who had been all upright folks. One of many biggest Motown songs ever.

2: Sometime We’ll Be Collectively (Diana Ross And The Supremes)

Diana says farewell to The Supremes with a model of the 1961 Johnny And Jackey duet that manages to be each resigned and hopeful. The association is surprisingly related; the producer is Johnny Bristol – Johnny of Johnny And Jackey. The horrible irony is, The Supremes didn’t sing on it in any respect, although you may hear Bristol’s voice urging Diana onwards and upwards.

1: Ain’t No Mountain Excessive Sufficient (Marvin Gaye And Tammi Terrell)

One of many crowning glories of pop’s 60s revolution, probably the greatest soul songs of all time, and, for a lot of followers, Motown’s peak. Written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, “Ain’t No Mountain Excessive Sufficient” melded gospel roots with heavenly soul inside a musical backdrop that swooped from light valleys to staggering highs. Marvin and Tammi by no means sounded higher, solo or collectively. Soul with ambition, soaked in ardour.

Entries written by Ian McCann and Sam Armstrong.

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