This is the third and perhaps final installment of a three-part series of Motown love songs, each with its own unique play list of Motown hits that represent what I carefully selected to represent the best kind of love songs. No begging forgiveness, no betrayal, no stalking or unrequited love, but shared and celebrated love.
Being this is the last of three, it comprises and interesting selection. While half of these were songs I chose to save until last, others are last minute ads I hadn’t thought of.
In either case, they’re great love songs.
Scroll down, press play, and enjoy.
“Heat Wave” by Martha & The Vandellas
Is it a dance number, or is it a love song? If you listen to the lyrics you’ll find this 1963 mega-hit is both. By far one of the most upbeat Motown love songs, perhaps even the most upbeat Motown tune in general. This one may test conventional definitions of “love song”, but it is one. Not all love songs have to be ballads.
“If I Could Build My Whole World Around You” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
It’s difficult not to be partial to Marvin Gaye, particularly when paired with Tammi Terrell. As the title suggests, the lyrics propose the romantic notion of washing troubles away and replacing joy with sorrow… basic love stuff. “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You” went to #10 Pop and #2 R&B charts in 1967.
“Twenty-Five Miles” by Edwin Starr
Another great soulful dance tune, in which nothing can keep the subject from their love, the lyrics count down how many miles it will take to “get to my baby”. In 1969, this powerhouse reached #6 on both the R&B and Pop charts. Like some other Motown tunes, its up-tempo delivery can be somewhat deceiving, but the lyrics are love song.
“Ain’t Nothin’ Like The Real Thing” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
In 1968 this was a #1 R&B hit, and broke the Pop Top 10. Marvin, Tammi and some interesting percussion make this medium tempo song – written and produced by Ashford & Simpson – a soultastic love-fest. Letters, pictures and memories can’t take the place of real love.
“It’s Growing” by The Temptations
This 1965 Temptations hit was the follow-up single to “My Girl”. Although sappy love wasn’t exactly David Ruffin’s forte, he does a great job with this proclamation of ever growing love written by Smokey Robinson.
“Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” by Marvin Gaye
“And I ain’t got time for nothing else” is the lyric that follows the title, and refers to the kind of love that is all-consuming. Originally recorded by The Temptations, it was never released as a single,and it would be Marvin’s far superior rendition that would take this tune to #4 Pop and #1 R&B in 1969.
“Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart” by The Supremes
This one barely made the list, because it made love out to be an ailment. Yet the more I listened, the more I realized that this 1966 Supremes hit was really just about being lovesick in a good way, or “bit by the love bug”.
“My Guy” by Mary Wells and “My Girl” by The Temptations
Smokey Robinson wrote both of these #1 singles and one can only speculate a correlation between the two, yet the coincidence is uncanny. The themes are as uncomplicated as the titles, with each being gender-specific (“My Girl” from guy, “My Guy” from girl). Although Miss Wells days were numbered at Motown, “My Girl” was a game-changer for The Temptations, launching the group into spotlight and super-stardom. “My Guy” topped all charts (#1 R&B and Pop) in 1964, and “My Girl” did the same in 1965.
And that wraps up a three part series on Motown love songs of the 1960s. Be sure to listen to the tunes on this list by clicking “play” above, or in order to see and hear sides one and two, just 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.