Tag Archives: Motown

I Heard it Through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye (The Prince of Motown)

On the 25th Anniversary of his untimely death.  I want to pay tribute to the great voice of Marvin Gaye.

Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr., better known by his stage name Marvin Gaye (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was an American singer-songwriter and instrumentalist with a three-octave vocal range.   Starting as a member of the doo-wop group The Moonglows in the late fifties, he ventured into a solo career after the group disbanded in 1960 signing with the Tamla subsidiary of Motown Records.   After a year as a session drummer, Gaye ranked as the label’s top-selling solo artist during the sixties.

Due to solo hits including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)“, “Ain’t That Peculiar“, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and his duet singles with singers such as Mary Wells and Tammi Terrell, he was crowned “The Prince of Motown” and “The Prince of Soul”.

Notable for fighting the hit-making but restrictive Motown process in which performers and songwriters and producers were kept separate, Gaye proved with albums like his 1971 What’s Going On and his 1973 Let’s Get It On. It was impressive that he was able to produce music without relying on the system, inspiring fellow Motown artists such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to do the same.

His mid-1970s work including the Let’s Get It On and I Want You albums helped influence the quiet storm, urban adult contemporary and slow jam genres. After a self-imposed European exile in the late seventies, Gaye returned on the 1982 Grammy-winning hit, “Sexual Healing” and the Midnight Love album before his death at the hands of his father on April 1, 1984. He was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

In 2008, the American music magazine Rolling Stone ranked Gaye #6 on its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time, and ranked #18 on 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

On April 1, 1984, one day before his 45th birthday, Gaye’s father fatally shot him after an argument that started after his parents squabbled over misplaced business documents. Gaye attempted to intervene, and was killed by his father using a gun he had given him four months before.   Marvin Sr. was sentenced to six years of probation after pleading guilty to manslaughter.   Charges of first-degree murder were dropped after doctors discovered Marvin Sr. had a brain tumor. Spending his final years in a retirement home, he died of pneumonia in 1998.   In 1987, Gaye was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.   He was also inducted to Hollywood’s Rock Walk in 1989 and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990.

Marvin will be featured by this site in the future, but as a tribute to those of us “who have ears to hear” this is one sweet voice and one great song.


Just My Imagination – The Temptations

The number one song on March 30, 1971 was “Just My Imagination” by the Temptations.

For more than forty years, the Temptations have prospered, propelling popular music with a series of smash hits and sold-out performances throughout the world.

The history of the Temptations is the history of contemporary American pop.   An essential component of the original Motown machine, that amazing engine invented by Berry Gordy, the Temps began their musical life in Detroit in the early sixties.   It wasn’t until 1964, however, that the Smokey Robinson written-and-produced “The Way You Do the Things You Do” turned the guys into stars.

An avalanche of hits followed, many of which – “My Girl,” for instance-attained immortality. “It’s Growing,” “Since I Lost My Baby,” “Get Ready,” “Too Proud to Beg,” “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “I Wish It Would Rain”-the hits kept coming.

The classic lineup was Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin.   Beyond the fabulous singing, the Temps became known for smooth stepping and flawless presentations.   The Temptation Walk became a staple of American style, Flair, flash and class.   Millions of fans saw their Temptations as cultural heroes.

When the sixties and seventies turned political, the Temps got serious.   They changed their tone, dress and music. Producer Norman Whitfield led the way.   His Temptations hits, many featuring Dennis Edwards who had replaced David Ruffin, burned with intensity. “Runaway Child,” “Cloud Nine,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and “Psychedelic Shack” still smolder.

This song, Just My Imagination, is just another one of the worthy songs listed here for…”those who have ears to hear”…

The Voice Of Motown…Silenced Forever

The great voice of Levi Stubbs is now silenced.

That dynamic voice that brought us classics like “Reach Out (I’ll be There)” , “Baby I need Your Loving” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey-bunch)”  and other hits, died today at the age of 72.

Levi Stubbs was the front man and lead singer for the popular Motown group known as the Four Tops.  The Four Tops sold millions of records and performed for more than four decades without a change in personnel.

Former Motown label-mate Smokey Robinson said, “Levi Stubbs was one of the great voices of all times. He was very near and dear to my heart. He was my friend and my brother, I miss him. God bless his family and comfort them.”

The Four Tops began singing together in 1953 under the name the Four Aims and signed a deal with Chess Records.  They also recorded for Red Top, Riverside and Columbia Records and toured supper clubs.

The received their greatest success when they signed with Motown Records in 1963.  They produced 20 Top-40 hits over the next 10 years, making music history with the other acts in Berry Gordy’s Motown stable.

“It is not only a tremendous personal loss for me, but for the Motown family, and people all over the world who were touched by his rare voice and remarkable spirit,” Gordy said Friday. “Levi was the greatest interpreter of songs I’ve ever heard.”

When he and others at Motown first heard “Baby I Need Your Loving,” Gordy remembered: “Levi’s voice exploded in the room and went straight for our hearts. We all knew it was a hit, hands down.”

Their biggest hits were recorded between 1964 and 1967 with the in-house songwriting and production team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland. Both 1965’s “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” and 1966’s “Reach Out” went to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart.

Other hits included “Shake Me, Wake Me” (1966), “Bernadette” and “Standing in the Shadows of Love” (both 1967).

Stubbs “fits right up there with all the icons of Motown,” said Audley Smith, chief operating officer of the Motown Historical Museum. “His voice was as unique as Marvin’s or as Smokey’s or as Stevie’s.”

Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and they have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Click on the following links and enjoy the voice and legend of Levi Stubbs…

“Reach Out and I’ll Be There”

“Baby I Need Your Loving”

“I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey-bunch)”s,

“Standing in the Shadows of Love”

“It’s the Same Old Song”