Category: motown

On this day in music history: July 17, 1967 – …

On this day in music history: July 17, 1967 – “With A Lot O’ Soul”, the fifth studio album by The Temptations is released. Produced by Norman Whitfield, Smokey Robinson, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Frank Wilson and Ivy Jo Hunter, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from Fall 1966 – Spring 1967. Released during the period when the legendary Motown vocal group is reaching the peak of their commercial success, the album is the most successful of the groups’ “Classic 5” era line up. It spins off four hit singles including the top 10 hits “(I Know) I’m Losing You (#1 R&B, #8 Pop), "All I Need (#2 R&B, #8 Pop), ”(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need" (#3 R&B, #14 Pop), and “You’re My Everything” (#3 R&B, #6 Pop). Over the years, outtakes from the sessions that produce this album surface on compilations such as The Temptations “Emperors Of Soul” box set in 1994, and “Lost and Found: You’ve Got To Earn It (1962-1968)” in 1999. The album is remastered and reissued in 1998 with the original cover artwork restored. “With A Lot O’ Soul” spends one week at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, and peaking at number seven on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: July 16, 1977 – …

On this day in music history: July 16, 1977 – “Easy” by The Commodores hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 on August 27, 1977. Written by Lionel Richie, it is the third R&B chart topper for the band from Tuskegee, AL. Born and raised in Alabama, songwriter and musician Lionel Richie grows up influenced by many different genres of music including R&B, pop and country music. All three musical styles come together when Richie writes the song “Easy”, about a man coming to terms with the end of a relationship. “Easy” is released on March 18, 1977 in advance of The Commodores self-titled fifth album. The pop/soul ballad becomes a multi-format smash, becoming their third number one R&B hit and their biggest pop single to date. The million selling “Easy” takes The Commodores to the next level of success in their career, helping drive sales of the “Commodores” album to 2x Platinum status. Over the years it is covered numerous times by pop, rock and country artists including Clarence Carter, Faith No More and Boyz II Men. Lionel Richie himself covers “Easy” in 2012 with country music icon Willie Nelson, on the duets album “Tuskegee”.

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On this day in music history: July 15, 1967 – …

On this day in music history: July 15, 1967 – “I Was Made To Love Her” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 4 weeks (non-consecutive), also peaking at #2 on the Hot 100 on July 29, 1967. Written by Henry Cosby, Lula Mae Hardaway, Sylvia Moy and Stevie Wonder, it is the third R&B chart topper for the then seventeen year old Motown star. Staff producer and songwriter Sylvia Moy comes up with the initial idea for the song, drawing upon her own family background while growing up in Arkansas. Moy collaborates with producer/songwriter Henry “Hank” Cosby along with Stevie Wonder and his mother Lula who also contributes lyrics and melody lines to the song. The track is cut at Motown Studio A in Detroit on March 11, 1967 with The Funk Brothers providing the instrumental backing. The strings (played by members of the Detroit Symphony) are added on March 21, 1967 with Wonder recording his lead vocal on March 30, 1967. The background vocals are recorded on March 31, 1967. Released in May of 1967 after a number of mid charting singles on the pop charts, it fully restores Wonder to commercial prominence, becoming his first million selling single since “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” a year and a half before. “I Was Made To Love Her” is also covered numerous times by various artists including The Beach Boys, Boyz II Men, The Jackson 5, and Michael McDonald. Chaka Khan and Whitney Houston record their own versions as “I Was Made To Love Him” in 1978 and 1998 respectively.

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On this day in music history: July 10, 1964 – …

On this day in music history: July 10, 1964 – “Baby I Need Your Loving” by The Four Tops is released. Written by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, it is the fourth single release for the R&B vocal quartet from Detroit, MI. Originally known as The Four Aims when they’re formed in 1953, the group consists of Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton. The group come together while they are students at Northern High School in Detroit, MI. They land their first recording contract with Chess Records in 1956, with the help of Payton’s cousin, songwriter Roquel “Billy” Davis. The group change their name to The Four Tops in order to avoid confusion with the vocal group The Ames Brothers. The Tops release the single “Kiss Me Baby” in May of 1956, but it not successful. Though popular as a live act, often opening for top artists including Billy Eckstine, The Four Tops are unable to land a hit record. Between 1960 and 1963, the group record more unsuccessful singles for Columbia, Red Top and Riverside Records. Finally, they catch a break later in 1963, when Roquel Davis introduces them to Berry Gordy, Jr., one of Davis’ songwriting partners and the founder of Motown Records. Gordy initially signs them to the labels’ Workshop Records imprint. They record a series of jazz standards, but are still hitless. Instead, the group work as background singers for other Motown artists, including The Supremes on their first top 40 hit “When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes”. Then The Four Tops are paired with The Supremes’ production team Holland Dozier Holland. Feeling they need to move in a more R&B and mainstream pop direction, HDH set about crafting a song suitable for The Tops. They quickly come up with “Baby I Need Your Loving”, after seeing the group perform at a local Detroit club. The song is recorded in May of 1964 at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit, with members of The Funk Brothers  including James Jamerson (bass), Benny Benjamin (drums), Robert White (guitar) and Earl Van Dyke (piano). Paul Riser adds the finishing touch by arranging the horns and strings on the track. The Four Tops add their vocals and the song is completed in short order. Released in the Summer of 1964, “Baby I Need Your Loving” becomes the elusive hit that Motown and The Four Tops have been looking for. “Baby” peaks at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 3, 1964, becoming their first million selling single. It is the first of sixteen pop and twenty five R&B top 40 hits, the group have with Motown. One of the evergreens in the Motown catalog, “Baby I Need Your Loving” is also covered by Johnny Rivers, Marvin Gaye (w/ Kim Weston and Tammi Terrrell), O.C. Smith, Mitch Ryder, Checkmates, Ltd., Eric Carmen, and Carl Carlton to name a few.

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On this day in music history: July 9, 1970 – &…

On this day in music history: July 9, 1970 – “(I Know) I’m Losing You” by Rare Earth is released. Written by Cornelius Grant, Eddie Holland and Norman Whitfield, it is the fourth single release for the Detroit, MI based rock/funk band. A cover of The Temptations 1966 classic, the band work with the songs original producer and co-writer Norman Whitfield, giving it a stunning, extended psychedelic make over. Clocking in at over eleven minutes on the LP, it is edited down to just over three and a half minutes for single release. Issued as the first single from the bands’ third album “Ecology”, “(I Know) I’m Losing You” peaks at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, and number twenty on the R&B singles chart on October 3, 1970. Rare Earth’s version of “(I Know) I’m Losing You” is also  sampled by the rap duo Black Sheep on the track “Try Counting Sheep” on their 1991 debut album “A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing”.

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On this day in music history: July 5, 1975 – &…

On this day in music history: July 5, 1975 – “Slippery When Wet” by The Commodores hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #19 on the Hot 100 on August 9, 1975. Written by Thomas McClary, it is the first chart topping single for the R&B/Funk band from Tuskegee, AL. After finally hitting the charts in 1974 with their debut album “Machine Gun”, containing the classic title track and the equally funky follow ups “I Feel Sanctified” and “The Zoo (The Human Zoo)”, the Commodores begin work on their sophomore effort with producer James Anthony Carmichael. Written by guitarist Thomas McClary, the firmly in the pocket groove of the slyly provocative “Slippery When Wet” is an obvious stand out from the beginning. With drummer Walter Orange handling nearly all of the lead vocal duties on the previous album, “Slippery” marks the first Commodores single to feature Lionel Richie singing lead, at the suggestion of Motown executive Suzanne DePasse. Released as the first single from “Caught In The Act” in April of 1975, “Slippery When Wet” catches fire quickly. Racing up the R&B chart within ten weeks of its debut, it makes a fast crossover to pop radio, becoming the Commodores second top 40 pop single. The success of the song propels the album into the top ten on the R&B album chart (#7 R&B), and into the top 30 (#26 Pop) on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: July 5, 1965 – T…

On this day in music history: July 5, 1965 – The Four Tops record “It’s The Same Old Song” at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI. Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, it is the second pop, and third R&B top ten hit for the R&B vocal quartet. In early July of 1965, Motown hears that Columbia Records is re-releasing “Ain’t That Love”, a single the group recorded in 1960 (while briefly signed to the label), in an attempt to capitalize on the success of the group’s recent number one smash “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”. Wasting no time at all, Berry Gordy summons the troops into action, to come up with a quick follow up to combat the rival release. HDH cleverly re-write “I Can’t Help Myself”, changing the chords around and giving it the wry and ironic title “It’s The Same Old Song”. The instrumental track featuring The Funk Brothers providing musical backing is quickly cut in just a handful of takes. The Four Tops are hustled into the studio to add their vocals a short time later (with additional background vocals by The Andantes). Within a couple of hours, the initial mixes of the song are completed. An engineer hand cuts 1500 acetate copies of the new single, while the lacquers are delivered to American Record Pressing in Owosso, MI for the first commercial copies to be pressed. By 3 pm the next day, acetate copies of “It’s The Same Old Song” are in the hands of prominent DJ’s around the country, and is immediately added to station playlists. The label has copies of the single shipped to record stores by Friday, July 9, 1965. The single is the highest new entry on the Hot 100 at #54 on July 31, 1965, while “Ain’t That Love” enters the chart the same week at #93. “Love” falls of the chart the following week, while “It’s The Same Old Song” soars to #5 on the Hot 100 on August 28, 1965, and #2 on the R&B singles chart on August 21, 1965.

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The Marvelettes in London, June 1965.

The Marvelettes in London, June 1965.

Eldra “El” DeBarge photographed …

Eldra “El” DeBarge photographed by Bobby Holland, 1985.

On this day in music history: June 29, 1962 – …

On this day in music history: June 29, 1962 – “Do You Love Me” by The Contours is released. Written by Berry Gordy, Jr., it is the third single release and biggest hit for the R&B vocal group from Detroit, MI. Originally known as The Blenders when they are formed in 1959 by Joe Billingslea and Billy Gordon, they add Billy Hoggs and Billy Rollins. Also finding Hubert Johnson, Rollins departs and is replaced by Leroy Fair. With that, the group change their name to The Contours in 1960. They audition for Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Jr., but are turned down. Johnson, who is the cousin of R&B superstar Jackie Wilson, assists in securing them another audition, and are signed. Their first single “Whole Lotta’ Woman” is released in early 1961 but fails to chart. Then Leroy Fair is replaced by Benny Reeves, the brother of Martha Reeves (Martha & The Vandellas). Reeves then leaves to join the Navy, and is replaced by Sylvester Potts. Their second single “The Stretch” written by Willian “Mickey” Stevenson and Berry Gordy’s sister Loucye Gordy Wakefield, also fails to chart. Impressed by their highly energetic live performances, Gordy is determined to write them a hit. He comes up with “Do You Love Me”, but nearly gives it to The Temptations when Gordy isn’t satisfied with how they initially sing it. Going back and fine tuning, The Contours go into the studio to record. Featuring The Funk Brothers’ musical backing, the group’s vocals led by Billy Gordon match the track’s fiery intensity. Released as a single on Motown’s Gordy Records imprint, “Do You Love Me” gets off to a slow start. Finally it enters the Hot 100 at #100 on August 11, 1962, and #30 on the R&B chart on August 25, 1962. Once it takes hold, the record becomes a smash, spending three weeks at #1 (non-consecutive) on the R&B singles chart on October 20, 1962, and peaks at #3 on the Hot 100 on the same date. An instant classic, it is covered by numerous artists including The Dave Clark Five, The Hollies, Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, The Kingsmen, Paul Revere & The Raiders and The Sonics. In spite of scoring a major hit, The Contours only land a handful of modest hits afterward with “Shake Sherry”, “Can You Jerk Like Me” and “First I Look At The Purse”. In the late 80’s, “Do You Love Me” experiences an unexpected revival via the blockbuster film “Dirty Dancing”. It’s used to anchor “More Dirty Dancing”, the triple Platinum sequel to the first volume of the hit soundtrack. This prompts Motown to re-release “Do You Love Me” as a single in May of 1988. The record becomes a hit all over again, over twenty five years after its original release, peaking at #11 on the Hot 100 on August 6, 1988. It is also released as a 12" single that features an extended remix of the R&B classic. “Do You Love Me” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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