♫ What’s Going On ♫ (Redux)

Yes, another redux, but … frankly, in light of our circumstances today, there are few songs that fit the times better than this one by Marvin Gaye.  “For only love can conquer hate.”  Enough said …


There’s a lot of history to this song … more than I can cover in a brief blurb here.  The inspiration for the song came from Renaldo “Obie” Benson, a member of the Four Tops, after he and the group’s tour bus arrived at Berkeley on May 15, 1969. While there, Benson witnessed police brutality and violence in the city’s People’s Park during a protest held by anti-war activists in what was hailed later as “Bloody Thursday”.

Upset by what he had seen, he discussed what he witnessed to friend and songwriter Al Cleveland, who in turn wrote and composed a song to reflect Benson’s concerns. Benson wanted to give the song to his group but the other Four Tops turned down the request, saying it was a protest song.

“I said ‘no man, it’s a love song, about love and understanding. I’m not protesting, I want to know what’s going on.'”

In 1970, Benson presented the untitled song to Marvin Gaye, who added a new melody and revised the song to his liking, adding in his own lyrics. Benson later said Gaye tweaked and enriched the song, “added some things that were more ghetto, more natural, which made it seem like a story than a song… we measured him for the suit and he tailored the hell out of it.”

Motown founder Berry Gordy was against Gaye doing the song, saying …

“Motown was about music for all people—white and black, blue and green, cops and the robbers. I was reluctant to have our music alienate anyone. This was a big risk for his image.”

By some accounts there was a bitter quarrel between Gaye and Gordy over the song, but Gordy denies it.

Two bits of trivia about Marvin Gaye that I did not know until tonight:

  • He was married to Berry Gordy’s sister, Anna, from 1963 until their divorce in 1977
  • Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father on 01 April 1984, after breaking up a fight between his parents.  Gaye was one day shy of his 45th birthday.  His father was given a suspended sentence and probation.

And now … What’s Going On …

What’s Going On
Marvin Gaye

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, eheh

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Ah, what’s going on

In the mean time
Right on, baby
Right on brother
Right on babe

Mother, mother, everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply ’cause our hair is long
Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
Oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
C’mon talk to me
So you can see
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you what’s going on, ooh ooo ooo ooo
Right on baby
Right on baby

Songwriters: Alfred W Cleveland / Marvin P Gaye / Renaldo Benson
What’s Going On lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ Superstition ♫

aarghFolks, I’ve done it again!!!  Last year, I missed Stevie Wonder’s birthday by a day … his birthday is the 13th, and after I didn’t play a Stevie Wonder song on that date, my dear friend Ellen took me to task, so I wished Mr. Wonder a ‘Happy Birthday’ on the 14th.  This year, though … I’ve missed it by five days!!!  Ellen … this is your fault, y’know!  Anyway, better late than never, they say, and since Stevie is in my top five favourites of all time, I cannot let his birthday go unnoticed.

I dug around for one of his songs that I haven’t played … no small task, considering I have featured him 28 times since I started doing these music posts a couple of years ago.  But, I came up with one and, while it isn’t in my top five favourites, I do like it.  The song made #1 in the U.S., #6 in Canada, and #11 in the UK

This was intended for Jeff Beck, who was brought in to play some guitar parts on the album in exchange for a song. At one of the sessions, Stevie came up with the riff and wrote some lyrics, and they recorded a rough version of the song that day for Beck. It took Beck a while to record the song, and by the time he released it, Wonder’s version had been out for a month and was a huge hit. Beck felt shortchanged, and made some statements in the press that Wonder didn’t appreciate. In 1975, Beck released an instrumental version of Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” on his album Blow By Blow. The album was a hit and helped solidify Beck’s reputation as an elite guitarist.

When Wonder turned 21, he was no longer obligated to Motown Records, and used his clout to sign a deal with the label giving him unprecedented control of his music. He got a large share of royalties and publishing rights, and Motown was not allowed to alter the albums once they were delivered. One thing Motown did control, however, were what songs they released as singles. Knowing Jeff Beck was about to record his version, Motown head Berry Gordy made sure this was the first single and released it before Beck could get his out.  A bit of dirty pool there, it seems.

Several artists besides Jeff Beck have covered this. None made much of an impact until Stevie Ray Vaughan released a live version as a single in 1986 on his album Live Alive. His version is still played on Classic Rock radio, and has grown even more popular since Vaughan’s death in 1990.

Wonder performed this song on Sesame Street in 1973 during the show’s fourth season. It was recorded at the show’s New York studios at a time when Wonder and his band were playing lots of gigs, and they treated the Sesame Street performance just like any other, extending it to nearly 7 minutes, complete with intricate musical shifts directed by Wonder. Video of the performance shows kids and puppets having a blast on the set, but the band remained focused, since getting distracted by a monster would not be a valid excuse for missing a change.  Normally, I would also include the Sesame Street version, and perhaps another day I will, but today is Stevie Wonder’s show alone.

So, without further ado … Happy 70th Birthday Mr. Stevie Wonder!!!!  🎈

 

Superstition
Stevie Wonder

Ladies and Gentlemen
Ladies and Gentlemen

Joining us on stage my Mr Jeff Beck

Very superstitious,
Writing’s on the wall,
Very superstitious,
Ladders bout’ to fall
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass
Seven years of bad luck,
The good things in your past

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition aint the way

Everybody scream!

Very superstitious,
Nothin’ more to say,
Very superstitious,
The devil’s on his way,
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass,
Seven years of bad luck,
Good things in your past

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way,
No, no, no

Superstition ain’t the way
Superstition ain’t the way
Superstition ain’t the way
Superstition ain’t the way

Everybody say
We’re jamming in New York
We’re jamming in New York

Superstition ain’t the way
Superstition ain’t the way…

I love you…

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Stevie Wonder
Superstition lyrics © Jobete Music Co. Ltd., Jobete Music Co Inc, Black-bull-music, Inc., Black Bull Music Inc, Jobete Music Co., Inc.

♫ Standing In The Shadows Of Love ♫

As you may have noticed from my morning Very Snarky Snippets, I am in something of a mood tonight.  And when I’m in a mood, I turn to Motown.

While I have played many Four Tops’ songs in the past two years, I haven’t played this one!

The Four Tops released this song as a direct follow-up to their #1 hit Reach Out I’ll Be There and it features a similar musical arrangement. Despite the likeness to its chart-topping predecessor, the record was still a big hit, easily reaching the Top 10 in both the UK and US. Both songs were written by the Motown songwriting team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland (Holland-Dozier-Holland), and while the instrumentation is similar, the lyrics are very different.

This song was recorded by the Four Tops during the first ever session at Berry Gordy’s newly acquired Golden World Detroit studio, later dubbed Studio B.

The song has been covered by everybody and their brother from the Jackson 5 to Barry White to Rod Stewart to Joe Stubbs (the younger brother of The Four Tops’ lead vocalist Levi Stubbs).

Standing In The Shadows Of Love
Four Tops

Standing in the shadows of love
I’m getting ready for the heartaches to come
Can’t you see me standing in the shadows of love
I’m getting ready for the heartaches to come

I want to run but there’s nowhere to go
‘Cause heartaches will follow me, I know
Without your love, the love I need
It’s the beginning of the end for me
‘Cause you’re taking away all my reasons for livin’
When you pushed aside all the love I been givin’
Now wait a minute

Didn’t I treat you right, now baby, didn’t I?
Didn’t I do the best I could now, didn’t I?

So don’t you leave me
Standing in the shadows of love
I’m getting ready for the heartaches to come
Don’t you see me standing in the shadows of love
Trying my best to get ready for the heartaches to come

All alone
I’m destined to be, with misery my only company
It may come today, it might come tomorrow
But it’s for sure I ain’t got nothing but sorrow
Now don’t your conscience kind of bother you
How can you watch me cry after all I done for you
Hold on a minute

Gave you all the love I had now, didn’t I?
When you needed me I was always there now, wasn’t I?

I’m trying hard not to cry out loud
You know crying it ain’t gonna help me now
What did I do to cause all this grief?
Now what’d I say to make you want to leave
Now wait a minute

Gave my heart and soul to you now, didn’t I?
And didn’t I always treat you good, now didn’t I?

I’m standing in the shadows of love
I’m getting ready for the heartaches to come
Don’t you see me standing in the shadows of love
Trying my best to get ready for the heartaches to come
Oh I’m standing in the shadows of love

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Jr. / Brian Holland / Edward Holland / Edward / Jr. Holland / Lamont Dozier / Lamont Herbert Dozier
Standing In The Shadows Of Love lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ I’ll Be There ♫

Tonight’s song has nothing whatsoever to do with shirts, cats, cookies, dirty dishes, or coffee mugs …

Released in 1970, this was the first Jackson 5 hit not written by “The Corporation,” a collection of Motown writers lead by the chief of the label, Berry Gordy. The Corporation were based in California, unlike most Motown writers, who were in the Detroit offices. This song was written by Hal Davis (who also produced it), Bob West, Willie Hutch, and Berry Gordy.

In this song, a man tells his former lover that he will always be there for her, and that even if she finds someone new, she can always go back to him. This statement of unconditional fealty makes it one of the more touching and romantic songs of the era, sweetened by the innocence of Michael Jackson’s voice – he was just 11 years old when he recorded it.

Now, I like the Jackson 5 version quite well, but 22 years later, Mariah Carey would release her own version of this, and I like that quite well also.  Mariah’s is more of a romantic duet with Trey Lorenz.  In fact, if you asked me to choose between the two, I couldn’t … each is special in it’s own way.  So, I offer you both tonight … take your pick!

I’ll Be There
The Jackson 5/Mariah Carey

You and I must make a pact
We must bring salvation back
Where there is love, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)

I’ll reach out my hand to you
I’ll have faith in all you do
Just call my name and I’ll be there (I’ll be there)

I’ll be there to comfort you
Build my world of dreams around you
I’m so glad that I found you

I’ll be there with a love that’s strong
I’ll be your strength
I’ll keep holdin’ on (holdin’ on)
Yes I will, yes I will

Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter
Togetherness, girl, is all I’m after
Whenever you need me, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)

I’ll be there to protect you (yeah baby)
With unselfish love that respects you
Just call my name, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)

I’ll be there to comfort you
Build my world of dreams around you
I’m so glad that I found you

I’ll be there with a love that’s strong
I’ll be your strength
I’ll keep holdin’ on
Ooh ooh ooh
Yes I will (holdin’ on, holdin’ on)
Yes I will

If you should ever find someone new
I know he better be good to you
‘Cause if he doesn’t
I’ll be there (I’ll be there)

Don’t you know baby I’ll be there
I’ll be there I’ll be there

Just call my name, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)
Just look over your shoulders honey, ooh!
I’ll be there, I’ll be there,
Whenever you need me, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)

Don’t you know baby
I’ll be there, I’ll be there
Just call my name, I’ll be there (I’ll be there)
Oh oh oh oh I’ll be there, I’ll be there

Songwriters: Berry Gordy Jr / Bob West / Hal Davis / Willie Hutch
I’ll Be There lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ My Guy ♫

On Saturday night, I played My Girl by the Temptations, and it only seemed natural to follow it with My Guy by Mary Wells, right?  So, on Sunday night I started working on a post featuring that song, but not having slept much the night before, I kept falling asleep.  Finally, I looked at what I had written, realized it was gibberish and I didn’t even have the embed code right, so I gave up and went to bed.  Let us try this once again …

Mary Wells’ smash hit My Guy was her last solo recording for Motown. The first female star for the record label and known as “the Queen of Motown”, she also became the first to dare to leave when 20th Century Fox wooed her with a $200,000 advance and potential movie roles. She officially left in 1965.

Mary Wells’ fellow Motown star, Smokey Robinson, wrote and produced this song. Robinson helped Berry Gordy form Motown Records after they realized how little they were paid by the labels that distributed their songs. In addition to fronting the legendary group The Miracles, Robinson also wrote and produced many of the label’s early numbers, including other Wells hits like The One Who Really Loves You, You Beat Me to the Punch and Two Lovers.

My Guy was the defining hit of Mary Wells’ career, but it was also memorable as Motown’s first British hit. When it was reissued in the UK and went to #14 in 1972, it brought a renewed interest in Wells. Although she had no problem performing her old numbers for her fans, the singer longed to make a name for herself apart from her Motown roots.

Unfortunately, the mainstream public wasn’t digging Wells’ new sound and, although she would re-emerge from retirement in the 1980s, she never regained the success that made her the “Queen of Motown.”

In 1990, Wells recorded an album for Ian Levine’s Motorcity Records, but her voice began to fail, prompting her to visit a local hospital. Doctors diagnosed Wells with laryngeal cancer. Treatments for the disease ravaged her voice, forcing her to quit her music career. Since she had no health insurance, her illness wiped out her finances, forcing her to sell her home. As she struggled to continue treatment, old Motown friends, including Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, members of the Temptations and Martha Reeves, made donations to support her, along with the help of admirers such as Dionne Warwick, Rod Stewart, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt.

That same year, a benefit concert was held by fellow fan and Detroit R&B singer Anita Baker. Wells was also given a tribute by friends such as Stevie Wonder and Little Richard on The Joan Rivers Show.

In the summer of 1992, Wells’s cancer returned and she was rushed to the Kenneth Norris Jr. Cancer Hospital in Los Angeles with pneumonia. With the effects of her unsuccessful treatments and a weakened immune system, Wells died on July 26, 1992, at the age of 49.  Smokey Robinson performed a softer rendition of this song when he delivered the eulogy at Mary Wells’ memorial service in 1992.

My Guy
Mary Wells

Nothing you could say could tear me away from my guy,
(My guy)
Nothing you could do ’cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy.
(My guy)
I’m sticking to my guy like a stamp to a letter,
Like birds of a feather we stick together,
I’m tellin’ you from the start I can’t be torn apart from my guy.

Nothing you could do could make me untrue to my guy,
(My guy)
Nothing you could buy could make me tell a lie to my guy.
(My guy)
I gave my guy my word of honor to be faithful, and I’m gonna,
You best be believing I won’t be deceiving my guy.

As a matter of opinion I think he’s tops,
My opinion is he’s the cream of the crop;
As a matter of taste to be exact he’s my ideal as a matter of fact.

No muscle-bound man could take my hand from my guy.
(My guy)
No handsome face could ever take the place of my guy.
(My guy)
He may not be a movie star, but when it comes to bein’ happy we are.
There’s not a man today who could take me away from my guy.

No muscle-bound man could take my hand from my guy.
(My guy)
No handsome face could ever take the place of my guy.
(My guy)
He may not be a movie star, but when it comes to bein’ happy we are.
There’s not a man today who could take me away from my guy.
(What you say, Tell me more)

No muscle-bound man could take my hand from my guy.
(My guy)
No handsome face could ever take the place of my guy.
(My guy)
He may not be a movie star, but when it comes to bein’ happy we are.

Songwriters: Ronald White / Smokey Robinson
My Guy lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ My Girl ♫

A couple of weeks ago, I played Nightshift by the Commodores, and in comments, my friend Cheryl, aka Calensariel, mentioned that her favourite Motown song was My Girl, by the Temptations.  And … since I always aim to please my friends, this one’s for you, dear friend!

This was written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, who were both members of The Miracles. Robinson wrote the lyrics – he was married at the time to his first wife, Claudette (they were wed from 1957-1986), but Smokey said that the song is not about a specific girl, but “written with all the women in the world in mind.”

This song was written in the Apollo Theater when The Temptations were playing as part of a package tour with The Miracles. According to Robinson, he was working out the song on a piano at the theater when his bandmate Ronald White joined him and they hashed out the song. When The Temptations heard it, they convinced Robinson to let them record it instead of The Miracles. Robinson, who was Berry Gordy’s right-hand man at Motown agreed, and rehearsed the song with The Temptations over the next week. When they returned to Detroit, Robinson and White produced the session on December 21, 1964 when they recorded this song.

The previous year, Robinson wrote My Guy for Motown singer Mary Wells. That song carried the same sentiment of unconditional love, but from a female perspective. Hmmmm … I’ll have to play that one soon, for it’s great, too!  Somebody remind me, for we all know that my memory is gone!

This was the first of four US #1 hits for The Temptations. It was also the first #1 for a male vocal group on the Motown label.  The Temptations were a groundbreaking act in terms of choreography, doing precise movements to accentuate their songs. This one used big, expressive gestures that became widely associated with the song – it was not uncommon to see people doing the moves while listening to it. The Motown choreographer was a dancer named Cholly Atkins.

One thing I didn’t know is that Mr. ‘Sittin’-on-the-Dock-of-the-Bay’ Otis Redding had also done this song.  Now, I love Otis, and I was prepared to offer his rendition up as a second tonight, but after I listened to about 30 seconds of it, I said … “Nah, sorry Otis, you flubbed this one”.  Nobody can do everything well, and he will always have my heart on Dock o’ the Bay!

My Girl
The Temptations

I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day
When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May
Well I guess you’d say
What can make me feel this way?
My girl (my girl, my girl)
Talkin’ ’bout my girl (my girl)

I’ve got so much honey the bees envy me
I’ve got a sweeter song than the birds in the trees
Well I guess you’d say
What can make me feel this way?
My girl (my girl, my girl)
Talkin’ ’bout my girl (my girl ooh)

Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey
Ooh yeah

I don’t need no money, fortune, or fame (ooh hey hey hey)
I’ve got all the riches baby one man can claim (oh yes I do)
I guess you’d say
What can make me feel this way?
My girl (my girl, my girl)
Talkin’ ’bout my girl (my girl)

I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day
With my girl (My girl)
(Talkin’ ’bout my girl my girl) I’ve even got the month of May
With my girl (My girl, woah)
She’s all I can think (my girl)
(Talkin’ ’bout my girl my girl)
Talkin’ ’bout, talkin’ ’bout my girl (my girl, woah)

Songwriters: William Smokey Robinson / Ronald White
My Girl lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

♫ It’s The Same Old Song ♫

This is the song I was planning to play last night, until Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight wouldn’t leave me alone.  This song had an interesting inception.  Like so many of the Motown songs, it was written and produced by the team of Holland–Dozier–Holland.  The song was reportedly created—from initial concept to commercial release—in just 24 hours!

The story goes, according to SongFacts …

The Four Tops were signed to Columbia Records in 1960, releasing just one single – “Ain’t That Love” (written by their lead singer, Levi Stubbs) – before moving on to Riverside Records and eventually joining Motown in 1963. As “I Can’t Help Myself” was coming off the charts, word got out that Columbia was going to re-release “Ain’t That Love” to capitalize on the group’s sudden success. Motown head Berry Gordy made a big push to thwart this, and put the rush on a new song. Fortunately, Holland-Dozier-Holland were very good at reworking their hits – they did it the previous year when they followed up their Martha & The Vandellas smash “Heat Wave” with the copycat “Quicksand.” The Four Tops were also up for the task, as they were one of the most seasoned Motown acts.

HDH quickly wrote the song, and on Thursday, July 8, it was furiously recorded and pressed. It was delivered to radio stations the next day, and by that Monday, it was in stores.

Columbia did issue “Ain’t That Love,” but it stalled at #93 on the Hot 100.

It’s the Same Old Song
Four Tops

You’re sweet as a honey bee
But like a honey bee stings
You’ve gone and left my heart in pain
All you left is our favorite song
The one we danced to all night long
It used to bring sweet memories
Of a tender love that used to be

Now it’s the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone
It’s the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone
I, oh I

Sentimental fool, am I
To hear a old love song and wanna cry
‘Cause the melody keeps haunting me
Reminding me how in love we used to be
Keep hearing the part that used to touch my heart
Saying together forever, breaking up never

It’s the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone
But it’s the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone

Precious memories keep a lingering on
Every time I hear our favorite song
Now you’re gone, left this emptiness
I only reminisce the happiness we spent
We used to dance to the music
Make romance through the music

Now it’s the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone
It’s the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone
I, oh I

It’s the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone
It’s the same old song

Songwriters: Edward Jr. Holland / Lamont Dozier / Brian Holland
It’s the Same Old Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ For Once In My Life ♫

Written by Ron Miller and Orlando Murden for Motown Records’ Stein & Van Stock publishing company, the song was first recorded in 1965 by Barbara McNair, but was first released the following year by Jean DuShon.  Other early versions of the ballad were issued by The Four Tops, The Temptations, Diana Ross and Tony Bennett, whose recording was the first to reach the pop charts.  And then came Stevie …

All versions of the song to this point were long, drawn-out ballads. Stevie Wonder was the first to pick up the tempo and use a joyful arrangement. Wonder’s version, however, sat in the Motown vaults for nearly a year before being released in 1968.  Why?  Because Berry Gordy did not like Stevie’s version.  Gordy vetoed the single’s release, and the recording was shelved. Billie Jean Brown, the head of the Motown Quality Control department, finally coerced Gordy into allowing Wonder’s version to be released in October 1968.

Stevie’s version became the hit record and definitive version of the song, the one most people think of first.

For Once in My Life
Stevie Wonder

For once in my life
I have someone who needs me
Someone I have needed so long
For once unafraid
I can go where life leads me
And somehow I know I’ll be strong

For once I can touch
What my heart used to dream of
Long before I knew
Someone warm like you
Would make my dreams come true

For once in my life
I won’t let sorrow hurt me
Not like it’s hurt me before
For once I have something
I know won’t desert me
I’m not alone anymore

For once I can say
“This is mine, you can’t take it”
Long as I know I have love
I can make it
For once in my life
I have someone who needs me

For once I can say
“This is mine, you can’t take it”
As long as I know I have love
I can make it
For once in my life
I have someone
Someone who needs me

Songwriters: Miller Ronald Norman / MURDEN ORLANDO
For Once in My Life lyrics © Jobete Music Co. Inc., Stone Diamond Music Corp., Ipanema Music, Corcovado Music Corporation, Emi Music Publishing France, Tunecore Publishing, JOBETE MUSIC CO INC, REACH MUSIC PUBLISHING-DIGITAL OBO BELLBOTTOMS AND BEER MUSI, EMI MILLER CATALOG INC, UNIVERSAL-MCA MUSIC PUBLIS OBO UNIVERSAL – MCA MUSIC PUBL.,, VM ENTERPRISES, INC., SADAIC LATIN COPYRIGHTS OBO SACVEN VENEZUELA, STONE DIAMOND MUSIC CORP

♫ Where Did Our Love Go ♫

Several nights ago I was planning a Supreme’s song, but got side-tracked, and now I cannot remember which one it was that I was planning for that night.  So, after a quick overview of some of their best songs, I settled tonight on this one, Where Did Our Love Go.

Written and produced by Motown’s main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland, this one was the first single by the Supremes to go to the number-one position in the U.S. in 1964.  It was also the first of five Supremes songs in a row to reach number one (the others being “Baby Love”, “Come See About Me”, “Stop! In the Name of Love”, and “Back in My Arms Again”).

According to Lamont Dozier …

“I originally cut this track with the Marvelettes in mind. In fact, I cut it in Gladys Horton’s key, the lead singer, which was much lower than Diana Ross’. At that time, at Motown, the policy was that the songwriters had to pay for the tracks we cut if it didn’t get recorded by one of their artists. It never entered my mind that the Marvelettes wouldn’t like the song. I had the chorus and went to the office to talk with Gladys and played it for her. She said, ‘Oh, honey, we don’t do stuff like that. And it’s the worst thing I ever heard.’ She was adamant about it. I was shocked.

I knew I was in deep trouble if I didn’t hurry and get someone to do the song because I wasn’t about to pay for the track. I went through the Motown artist roster and went all the way to the bottom of the list and there were the Supremes, better known in those days as the ‘no hit Supremes.’ I told them it was tailor made for them, knowing that they had nothing going on at the time and needed a song. Much to my surprise, they said no. Gladys (Horton of the Marvelettes) told them I was looking for someone to record it. I wasn’t giving up. Brian (Holland), Eddie (Holland) and I finally persuaded them to do it, convincing them that it was their saving grace and they couldn’t refuse it. We had already had Top 40 hits with Martha & the Vandellas but they hadn’t had recordings of any significance yet.

They were so annoyed that they agreed to do it that, in the studio, they had a really bad attitude. Diana (Ross) said it was in the wrong key, that it was too low. (Of course it was – I wrote it in Gladys’ key.) Since the track was already cut, she had to sing it in that key and she’d never sung that low before. It turned out that her bad attitude and the low key were exactly what the song needed! I’d worked out intricate background vocals but the girls refused to learn them. Finally I said, ‘Just sing ‘Baby, baby, baby’.’ It worked to their advantage and worked perfectly.

They didn’t necessarily agree. Diana and I were throwing obscenities back and forth and she went running to Berry (Gordy, Jr.) and told him I said something off-color about him. He came down to the studio to see what was wrong and while he was there, he asked to hear the song. He thought it was really good, but said that he didn’t know if it was a hit, but that he thought it would be Top 10.

The song was released and flew up the charts to #1. From then on, one hit followed another. It was the first of 13 consecutive #1s we did on the Supremes. The next time the Hollands and I saw the girls was at the airport. They were getting off a plane with their Yorkshire terriers, in mink stoles. We started laughing. It was so funny to see them turn into stars overnight.”

Where Did Our Love Go
The Supremes

Baby, baby, baby don’t leave me
Ooh, please don’t leave me all by myself
I’ve got this burning, burning, yearning feelin’ inside me
Ooh, deep inside me and it hurts so bad

You came into my heart (baby, baby) so tenderly
With a burning love (baby, baby)
That stings like a bee (baby, baby)
Now that I surrender (baby, baby) so helplessly
You now want to leave (baby, baby)
Ooh, you wanna leave me (baby, baby)
Ooh (baby, baby)

Baby, baby, where did our love go?
Ooh, don’t you want me?
Don’t you want me no more (baby, baby)?
Ooh, baby

Baby, baby, where did our love go?
And all your promises of a love forevermore!
I’ve got this burning, burning, yearning feelin’ inside me
Ooh, deep inside me, and it hurts so bad

Before you won my heart (baby, baby)
You were a perfect guy
But now that you got me
You wanna leave me behind (baby, baby)
Ooh, baby

Baby, baby, baby don’t leave me
Ooh, please don’t leave me all by myself (baby, baby)
Ooh baby, baby, baby

Songwriters: Edward Jr. Holland / Lamont Dozier / Brian Holland
Where Did Our Love Go lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ What’s Going On ♫

There’s a lot of history to this song … more than I can cover in a brief blurb here.  The inspiration for the song came from Renaldo “Obie” Benson, a member of the Four Tops, after he and the group’s tour bus arrived at Berkeley on May 15, 1969. While there, Benson witnessed police brutality and violence in the city’s People’s Park during a protest held by anti-war activists in what was hailed later as “Bloody Thursday”.

Upset by what he had seen, he discussed what he witnessed to friend and songwriter Al Cleveland, who in turn wrote and composed a song to reflect Benson’s concerns. Benson wanted to give the song to his group but the other Four Tops turned down the request, saying it was a protest song.

“I said ‘no man, it’s a love song, about love and understanding. I’m not protesting, I want to know what’s going on.'”

In 1970, Benson presented the untitled song to Marvin Gaye, who added a new melody and revised the song to his liking, adding in his own lyrics. Benson later said Gaye tweaked and enriched the song, “added some things that were more ghetto, more natural, which made it seem like a story than a song… we measured him for the suit and he tailored the hell out of it.”

Motown founder Berry Gordy was against Gaye doing the song, saying …

“Motown was about music for all people—white and black, blue and green, cops and the robbers. I was reluctant to have our music alienate anyone. This was a big risk for his image.”

By some accounts there was a bitter quarrel between Gaye and Gordy over the song, but Gordy denies it.

Two bits of trivia about Marvin Gaye that I did not know until tonight:

  • He was married to Berry Gordy’s sister, Anna, from 1963 until their divorce in 1977
  • Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father on 01 April 1984, after breaking up a fight between his parents.  Gaye was one day shy of his 45th birthday.  His father was given a suspended sentence and probation.

And now … What’s Going On …

What’s Going On
Marvin Gaye

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, eheh

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Ah, what’s going on

In the mean time
Right on, baby
Right on brother
Right on babe

Mother, mother, everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply ’cause our hair is long
Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
Oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
C’mon talk to me
So you can see
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you what’s going on, ooh ooo ooo ooo
Right on baby
Right on baby

Songwriters: Alfred W Cleveland / Marvin P Gaye / Renaldo Benson
What’s Going On lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC