Motown Love… Oozing with soul syrup.
This is the first of a three-part series of Motown love songs, where the not-so-good love songs (begging forgiveness love, done wrong love, unrequited love, et cetera) have been carefully vetted, leaving only the songs with lyrics that rejoice in all that amazing about love. Some romantic, some fun, some both… but all love.
Scroll down, press play, and enjoy.
“Pride and Joy” by Marvin Gaye
In 1963, this Marvin Gaye tune reached #10 on the pop charts and #2 on the R&B. It’s upbeat, fun, and with Martha Reeves and The Vandellas singing backup in this call-and-response Gospel styled classic, this is certainly one toe-tapping jam of a love song.
“The Way You Do The Things You Do” by The Temptations
This Smokey Robinson penned Tempts hit (their first Top 20, climbing to #1 on the R&B charts) is all about love. Eddie Kendricks takes the lead, singing endearing pickup line after pickup line (“If good looks was a minute, you know you could have been an hour”), concluding with “You make my life so bright, you make me feel alright”.
“How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” by Marvin Gaye
The title of this 1964 Motown hit pretty much says it all, and Marvin’s soulful sound makes it a timeless classic. This tune was covered by James Taylor in 1975, who reached #5, just one behind Marvin Gaye’s #6 position a decade earlier. It’s a great finger-popping classic and a fun sing-along as well.
“Everything Is Good About You” by Diana Ross and The Temptations
This lullaby-like love song never charted in the Top 40, so it’s our closet classic. It was released as a b-side in 1965 to “My World Is Empty Without You”, but when you listen to the lyrics – like the title – they say “I love you” with a tender Diana Ross touch declaring that everything about you is good.
“Your Precious Love” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Take some Marvin, and a healthy helping of Tammi Terrell, and you’ve got a small body of duets that are perhaps some of the best ever recorded. The first slow jam on this list, it just couldn’t be resisted. This was part of a series of love ballads penned by the songwriting duo of Ashford & Simpson for Marvin and Tammi, reaching #5 on the charts in 1967. Truly the stuff babies are made of.
“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” by The Temptations
feat/ Diana Ross & The Supremes
Don’t be fooled by the title. Listen to the lyrics and the lyrical exchange between Diana Ross and Eddie Kendricks suggest two people already in love, who long to make the other love them more. Penned by the Philadelphia-famous songwriter Kenneth Gamble along with Jerry Ross, this in an ineffable classic.
“For Once In My Life” by Stevie Wonder
A classic amongst classics, this Stevie Wonder hit proclaims a love that is once in a lifetime. Reaching a #2 position on the Pop and R&B charts in 1968, this upbeat love ditty has been covered time and again by great artists like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Ella Fitzgerald. Berry Gordy – head of Motown Records – almost didn’t release Stevie’s recording, feeling it didn’t have hit potential. Although written for Motown, it was Tony Bennett’s recording of this tune that reached the charts first.
“Special Occasion” by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
Comparing every kiss and every touch to a “special occasion”, this 1968 Smokey & The Miracles tune, written by Smokey himself along with Al Cleveland, rose to #26 on the Pop Top 40 and #4 on the R&B chart, and although perhaps less well known than some of the other tunes on this list is a fun and upbeat number that says love, love, love.
What is remarkable about Motown records during the 1960s is its output of love songs, good or bad. These are the songs you should dedicate to your love, listen to on Valentines Day or anniversaries, and by all means play at a wedding. These are the right kind of love songs.
To check out sides two and three, click on the links below.
Love the love…
Sources: The Billboard Book of Top 40 [Pop] Hits and The Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B Hits by Joel Whitburn and Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits by Fred Bronson. Also my years of learning Motown in the early 1990s at Bumpers Night Club in Northeast Philadelphia. Special thanks to Philadelphia radio jock and friend Harvey Holiday for being accessible, willing and patient in answering my barrage of never-ending questions on the subject of Motown.