Category: motown

On this day in music history: May 22, 1965 – &…

On this day in music history: May 22, 1965 – “I’ll Be Doggone” by Marvin Gaye hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #8 on the Hot 100 on May 15, 1965. Written by William “Smokey” Robinson, Warren “Pete” Moore and Marv Tarplin, it is the first R&B chart topper for Motown superstar. After working mostly with Mickey Stevenson or Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, Marvin Gaye is paired with Smokey Robinson for the first time in early 1965. Miracles guitarist Marv Tarplin comes up with the basic structure of the song including its hook, while Robinson and Moore write the lyrics. The track is cut at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on January 21, 1965, and features The Funk Brothers playing on the rhythm track. Gaye record his vocals four days after the initial tracking session on January 25, 1965, with The Miracles themselves providing the background vocals along with Motown’s in-house background vocal group The Andantes. The strings, provided by members of the Detroit Symphony are overdubbed on January 29, 1965. Released on February 26, 1965, it quickly rises up the R&B and pop singles charts. “I’ll Be Doggone” is Marvin Gaye’s first million selling single and the first of thirteen R&B chart toppers he has over the next eighteen years.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1977 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1977 – “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on May 28, 1977. Written and produced by Stevie Wonder, it is fifth pop and thirteenth R&B chart topper for the twenty two time Grammy award winning singer, songwriter and musician. The song is written in tribute to legendary composer, arranger and bandleader Duke Ellington. Having been an influence on Wonder as a musician, he feels compelled to acknowledge Ellington who had passed away in May of 1974 at the age of 75. Stevie also name checks many other important jazz and swing music pioneers in the song including Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. The track features Wonder (keyboards) with members of his band Wonderlove including Nathan Watts (bass), Michael Sembello and Ben Bridges (lead and rhythm guitars), Hank Redd (alto sax), Trevor Laurence (tenor sax), Raymond Maldonado, Steve Madaio (trumpets) and Raymond Pounds (drums). Issued as the second single from the landmark “Songs In The Key of Life” album on March 22, 1977, “Sir Duke” follows its predecessor “I Wish” to the top of the pop and R&B singles charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #74 on April 2, 1977, it  climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. The success of “Sir Duke” propels “Songs In The Key Of Life” to 10x Platinum status in the US.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1971 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1971 – “What’s Going On”, the eleventh studio album by Marvin Gaye is released. Produced by Marvin Gaye, it is recorded at Motown Studio A, Golden World Studios (Motown Studio B), United Sound Studios in Detroit, MI and the Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA from June 1970, March – May 1971. A concept album focusing on the subjects of poverty, drug abuse, and war, its messages immediately resonate with the public. Following the huge success of the title track as a single, Motown demands a full album to go with it ASAP. Recording with Motown’s studio band The Funk Brothers, the basic tracks and vocals for the album is recorded in only ten days of studio time. The initial version of the album, now known as the “Detroit Mix” is mixed by Motown engineers while Gaye is off in California filming a movie. After hearing the initial mix, Gaye orders them shelved and send for the tapes while in California. He adds additional overdubs to several tracks, and completely remixes and re-sequences the album with engineer Lawrence Miles. The album is immediately recognized by critics and the public as an important artistic musical statement upon its release, as well as being a major commercial success. It spins off three singles including “Mercy Mercy Me” (#1 R&B, #4 Pop), “Inner City Blues” (#1 R&B, #9 Pop) and the title track (#1 R&B, #2 Pop). Regarded as a landmark album of its era, is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998. Reissued numerous times since making its CD debut in 1986, it is released as a two disc Deluxe Edition in 2001. The first disc contains the original nine song album, as well as the initial but previously unreleased “Detroit Mix”, plus an instrumental mix of the title track. The second disc features a live concert recorded in Washington DC in January of 1972, with Gaye performing the album in its entirety live. It also contains the original mono single mixes of “What’s Going On”, and the B-sides “God Is Love”, “Sad Tomorrows” and an early demo recording of “Distant Lover”. This edition is also released as a four LP set in 2016, to commemorate the forty fifth anniversary of the albums’ release. Also a favorite of audiophiles, it is remastered and reissued by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab twice. The first time as an SACD and as a half speed mastered LP (in 2008 and 2009), and as a One Step 45 RPM double LP set in 2019. “What’s Going On” spends nine weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number six on the Top 200, is certified 6x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day music history: May 19, 1990 – &ldq…

On this day music history: May 19, 1990 – “Rub You The Right Way” by Johnny Gill hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on August 4, 1990. Written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, it is the first chart topping single for the singer from Washington, D.C. Known primarily as a romantic balladeer from the time he begins his recording career as a teenager, Johnny Gill finds himself pigeonholed in that category. When Gill is paired with superstar producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, they make a consorted effort to expand the singer’s musical horizons. The duo use one of the singer’s childhood musical heroes as the template to make that happening. Noting how producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff would also write strong up tempo material for Teddy Pendergrass to sing, Jam and Lewis take a similar approach with Johnny. Noting the aggressive up tempo grooves like “Only You”, “You Can’t Hide From Yourself” and “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose” by Pendergrass, Jimmy and Terry pen “Rub You The Right Way”. When Gill hears the track the producers have come up with, he’s all in. More adept as a live performer and never totally comfortable in the studio, it takes the singer a long time to perfect his vocals on the song. But once it’s completed, all agree that the song is a smash. The public will agree also, when “Rub You The Right Way” is issued as the first single from Johnny Gill’s third solo album on March 13, 1990. The single quickly races up the R&B chart, before crossing over and hitting the top five on the pop in late Summer. “Rub You” is also a solid hit on club dance floors, thanks to a hot dance remix by The Untouchables (DJ Pete Rock, DJ Eddie F. and Nevelle Hodge). The remix version also features additional rap verses by CL Smooth, which also receives significant radio and mix show play. “Rub You The Right Way” quickly propels the “Johnny Gill” album past the Platinum mark in the US, with the single moving more than a half million copies. The remix version is issued on a Japanese only CD compilation titled “Johnny The Remix”, released in 1991. “Rub You The Right Way” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 19, 1973 – &…

On this day in music history: May 19, 1973 – “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 2 weeks on April 28, 1973, also peaking at #3 on the R&B singles chart on May 5, 1973. Written and produced by Stevie Wonder, it is the third pop chart topper for the Motown superstar. Issued as the follow up to the chart topping “Superstition”, it is the second single from the album “Talking Book”. The track features singers Jim Gilstrap and Gloria Barley singing the songs first chorus before Stevie sings the first verse. The original LP and hit single mixes of the song differ, as the single version adds a horn section that not present on the original album version. Entering the Hot 100 at #76 on March 17, 1973, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. The song quickly becomes a pop standard, being covered by numerous artists over the years including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, and Johnny Mathis to name a few. “Sunshine” also wins Stevie a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, one of four Grammy Awards he picks up in 1974. When accepting his award for the single, Wonder thanks the audience by saying “I would like to thank all of you for making this night the sunshine of my life!” Stevie Wonder’s version of “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002.

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On this day in music history: May 17, 1980 – &…

On this day in music history: May 17, 1980 – “Let’s Get Serious” by Jermaine Jackson hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 6 weeks, also peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 on July 12, 1980. Written by Stevie Wonder and Lee Garrett, it is the biggest solo hit for the former co-lead vocalist and bassist for The Jackson 5. Jermaine Jackson begins his career as a solo artist in 1972 while still a member of The Jackson 5, scoring a hit with a cover version of the Shep & Limeliters classic “Daddy’s Home” (#2 R&B, #9 Pop). When his brothers leave Motown in 1975, Jermaine remains with the label, though subsequent albums such as “My Name Is Jermaine” (1976), “Feel The Fire” (1977) and “Frontiers” (1978) are only modest sellers. Looking to give his career a boost, Jackson turns his friend and Motown label mate Stevie Wonder for assistance. Wonder writes three songs for Jermaine’s fifth album including the funky uptempo “Let’s Get Serious” with childhood friend and songwriting collaborator Lee Garrett. Having known each other when both were students at the Michigan School For The Blind, Garrett and Wonder have previously co-written the classics “It’s A Shame” for The Spinners and Stevie’s own “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours”. Once the song is completed, Stevie takes Jermaine into the studio in the Summer of 1979 to record the track. Ever the perfectionist, it takes fifteen recording sessions spread over a period nearly seven months to complete “Serious” and the other Wonder penned songs “You’re Supposed To Keep Your Love For Me” and “Where Are You Now”. Released as a single in late February of 1980, “Let’s Get Serious” is an immediate smash on R&B radio and quickly crosses over to the pop singles chart. The success of the single drives the accompanying album (also titled “Let Get Serious) to the top of the Billboard R&B album chart for five weeks beginning on June 7, 1980, peaking at number six on the Top 200 and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA. "Let’s Get Serious” is ranked the top R&B single of 1980 by Billboard Magazine, edging out his brother Michael’s “Rock With You” which is ranked at number two for the year.

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On this day in music history: May 16, 1964 – &…

On this day in music history: May 16, 1964 – “My Guy” by Mary Wells hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written and produced by William “Smokey” Robinson, it is the biggest hit for Motown Records’ first major female vocalist. Having written and produced a string of hits for Mary Wells beginning with “The One Who Really Loves You” (#2 R&B, #8 Pop) in 1962, Smokey Robinson pens “My Guy” for the singer in early 1964. The basic track is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI in January of 1964, with musical backing by The Funk Brothers and background vocals by The Andantes (Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow and Louvain Demps). Smokey initially is unsure about the intro section of the song while recording the instrumental track. One of the musicians suggests using the same chord changes as the jazz/pop standard “Canadian Sunset”. The changes work and are integrated into the song. Released on March 13, 1964, the single quickly takes off. Entering the Hot 100 at #50 on April 4, 1964, it shoots to the top of the chart six weeks later, selling nearly two million copies in the US. Topping the chart just three days after her twenty-first birthday, “My Guy” is also Wells’ last major hit, as she leaves Motown shortly after terminating her contract with label at the suggestion of her then first husband. Having signed her contract while still a minor, it becomes void after Wells turns twenty-one. In spite of overtures from Motown to renew her deal, Mary signs a lucrative contract with 20th Century Fox Records, that also promises movie roles as well. Unfortunately, her tenure at 20th Century Fox Records yields no hits, and is released from the label after less than a year. “My Guy” becomes one of the most covered songs in the Motown catalog, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.

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On this day in music history: May 15, 1976 – &…

On this day in music history: May 15, 1976 – “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on May 29, 1976. Written by Pam Sawyer and Marilyn McLeod, it is the second R&B and fourth pop chart topper for the Motown superstar. With the departure of The Jackson 5 from Motown after the release of their album “Moving Violation”, producer Hal Davis is left without his top act after working together for five years. During this time he hears the original demo of “Love Hangover” in a Motown colleague’s office. Instantly excited about the songs hit potential, he cuts it right away. Recorded at Paramount Studios in Hollywood in mid 1975, it features musicians such as Joe Sample (keyboards), James Gadson (drums), and Henry Davis (of the band L.T.D.) (bass) playing on the track. Davis also comes up with the idea for the songs signature dual tempos, which the musicians are initially resistant to, but he convinces them otherwise. Shortly after, Davis plays the completed track for Berry Gordy who hears it as a smash for Diana Ross. Though initially, Ross doesn’t care for it, but agrees to record it at Gordy’s urging. Upon arriving at the studio, Davis pours her a drink and they get to work. The producer has recording engineer Russ Terrana install a strobe light in the vocal booth to add some ambiance, helping to put Ross in the proper frame of mind. The end results of which are heard on the finished record. “Love Hangover” is rush released as a single in March of 1976 when a competing version by The 5th Dimension is released on ABC Records just before it. Both versions enter the chart the same week on April 3, 1976, with The 5th Dimension’s version stalling at #80 on the Hot 100 the week of April 24, 1976, while Ross’ version soars to the top of the chart three weeks later. Ross’ version of “Love Hangover” also receives a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female in 1977. It is also prominently featured in the film and on the soundtrack of “Looking For Mr. Goodbar” in 1977. The song is also remixed twice, first in 1988 by Phil Harding of PWL (Pete Waterman Limited), and again in 1993 by Frankie Knuckles and Joey Negro for a remix album titled “Diana Extended: The Remixes”. “Love Hangover” has also sampled numerous times by many artists including Digital Underground on a remix version of their single “Freaks Of The Industry”, Will Smith (“Freakin’ It”), Craig Mack (“Rap Hangover”), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (“Ready 4 War”), 2Pac & Snoop Dogg (“If There’s A Cure (I Don’t Want It”), and Junior M.A.F.I.A. (“We Don’t Need It”). R&B singer Monica’s hit “The First Night” also samples the Diana Ross classic, taking it to the top of the Club Play, R&B and pop singles charts in 1998.

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On this day in music history: May 15, 1975 – &…

On this day in music history: May 15, 1975 – “Moving Violation”, the ninth studio album by The Jackson 5 is released. Produced by Hal Davis, Brian Holland, Mel Larson and Jerry Marcellino, it is recorded at the Motown Recording Studio in Hollywood, CA from October 1974 – March 1975. After scoring their first major hit in nearly three years with “Dancing Machine”, The Jackson 5 follow it with what turns out to be their final album on Motown. Feeling creatively stifled by the label by being prohibited from writing and producing their own music, the group leave the label shortly after its release for Epic Records. Legal wrangling among the two sides results in Motown claiming ownership of “The Jackson 5” name and trademark. In spite of this, the album shows the group transitioning from a kid group into young men with a more adult sound. It spins off only one single, the double A-sided hit “Forever Came Today” (#6 R&B, #60 Pop) b/w “All I Do Is Think Of You” (#50 R&B). The latter is covered by R&B vocal group Troop who hit #1 on the R&B singles chart with their version in June of 1990. The track “Body Language” is originally scheduled as the follow up single, but its release is cancelled after the group make it known that they are leaving Motown. Originally released on CD in the mid 80’s, it is remastered and reissued as a two-fer CD in 2001 with their previous album “Dancing Machine”. It is reissued again in 2010 as a stand alone CD with one bonus track added (the Disc-O-Tech remix of “Forever Came Today”). “Moving Violation” peaks at number six on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number thirty six on the Top 200.

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Born on this day: May 13, 1950 – Singer, songw…

Born on this day: May 13, 1950 – Singer, songwriter, producer and musician Stevie Wonder (born Stevland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw, MI). Happy 69th Birthday, Stevie!!!

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