Upon compiling a list of great Motown love songs from the 1960s, it didn’t take long to realize that one list just wouldn’t be enough. Naturally, there are endless amounts of love songs in endless genres, but in the case of Motown – a label, not a genre – there seems to be a disproportionate amount of love songs.
This is the second of a three-part series of Motown love songs. I’ve carefully weeded out the painful love songs (begging forgiveness love, been done wrong love, unrequited love, et cetera), leaving only the songs with lyrics that rejoice in all that is inspiring, uplifting and amazing about love.
Scroll down, press play, and enjoy.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
The first and perhaps most recognizable of the Ashford & Simpson duets recorded by Marvin and Tammi wasn’t actually written for them at all, but was slated for Dusty Springfield. As it happens, it didn’t work out that way and the rest is history. For as popular a song as it is today, it barely broke the Pop Top 20 in 1967.
“I Got A Feeling” by The Four Tops
Sadly, this 1966 album cut written by the hit-making team of Holland-Dozier-Holland was only released as the b-side of the single “Bernadette” in 1967, and hence never charted, although it did get decent radio airplay. I’d thought The Four Tops had more songs about love, but upon a closer listen to their lyrics, I found I’d been wrong.
“You’re A Wonderful One” by Marvin Gaye
In 1964, great and mighty powers came together to record “You’re A Wonderful One”. With the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, the soulful rhythms The Funk Brothers and backed by The Supremes, it’s almost too much talent for one track. This up-tempo track is summed up by its title, and it subsequently reached #22 on the Pop charts and #3 on the R&B.
“Heaven Must Have Sent You” by The Elgins
The Elgins were not one of Motown’s top acts, but they did take this Holland-Dozier-Holland track to #9 on the R&B Top 40 in 1966, only reaching #50 on the Pop side. In 1979, Bonnie Pointer (of The Pointer Sisters) would take this same tune to #11 on the U.S. Pop charts.
“It Takes Two” by Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston
Marvin Gaye was quite the duet man, paired this time with Kim Weston for this 1967 Motown hit. Not too complicated, the lyrics tell of how things like wishes, hopes, dreams and love are better shared between two people… “Me and you, just takes two”.
You’re My Everything” by The Temptations
The charm of this 1967 Temptations tune is the voices of Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin each taking a turn on one of the few Tempts chart hits that featured both on lead. Lyrically, this song says good love, but although it charted in the Top 10 on both the R&B and Pop charts, it is likely one of the less recognizable numbers on this list.
“I Hear A Symphony” by Diana Ross and The Supremes
The song opens with, “Whenever you are near I hear a symphony”, as if anything could be more endearing. The sweet voice of Diana and The Supremes coupled with the songwriting genius of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team took this love song to #1 on the pop charts in 1965.
“You’re All I Need To Get By” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
The title says it all; especially with Marvin and Tammi trading love lyrics on this 1968 hit coming in at #7 on the Pop charts and #1 R&B. The tune starts out tender and sweet, quickly rising in pace and coming back down softly as naturally as a falling leaf. Once more, the songwriting team of Ashford & Simpson outdo themselves on this masterfully crafted duet.
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. This is good lovin’.
To check out sides one 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.
And for correcting errors in my lists as I publish them. Thanks H.H.