♫ Dancing In The Street ♫

I hope you’re in the mood for a bit of something upbeat tonight, for I am greatly in need of what I think of as ‘happy music’, which often leads me to Motown, and tonight is no exception.

This song was written by Motown songwriters Marvin Gaye, Ivy Jo Hunter, and William “Mickey” Stevenson. It became the biggest hit and trademark song for Martha & the Vandellas.  According to the song’s co-writer Mickey Stevenson, the idea for dancing came to him while riding with Marvin Gaye through Detroit. During the summer, the city would open up fire hydrants and let the water out in the streets so they could play in the water to cool off. They appeared to be dancing in the water.  I actually remember one city I lived in as a child doing that … opening the fire hydrants on hot summer days!

Martha Reeves was the leader of the group.  Back in the early days, she was trying to get her foot in the door at Motown, but they wouldn’t even give her an audition, so she applied for and got a job as secretary.  Part of her secretarial duties was singing lyrics to new songs onto tapes so backup singers could learn the words. This led to fill-in work as a backup singer, where she impressed Motown executives with her voice.  She convinced them to hire her friends, Annette Sterling and Rosalind Ashford, and thus was born Martha and the Vandellas!  After backing up Marvin Gaye on some of his songs, Motown gave them songs to sing on their own, including the hit Heat Wave.

Martha Reeves told the story behind this song …

“Marvin Gaye had recorded ‘Dancing in the Street” when I first heard it, and he had put a real smooth vocal on there, sort of like (jazzy singing) ‘Calling all around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat baby?’ and for some reason, Marvin said, “let’s try this song on Martha.” I was in the office and they let me hear the song, but I couldn’t quite feel it that way. I had been to Rio De Janeiro, I had travelled to New Orleans during Carnival time, so I just knew it had to be somewhere about dancing in the street. I said, ‘Can I sing it the way that I feel it?’ And they said, ‘Go ahead.’

So, I sang it (singing on the beat) ‘calling all around the world are you ready for a brand-new beat,’ and, they loved it. There was all kinds of congratulatory hand slaps and ‘hey man, we got a hit in that window up there,’ and the engineer, Lawrence Horn, looked and said, ‘I didn’t turn the machine on.’

I had to sing it again. So, the second time I sang it, there’s a little bit of anger there because I had to repeat it. It was a straight performance and that’s why it sounds live. I think that’s the secret of the success of the hit – the fact that I had to do it again, and I did it without a mistake or without any interruption, and the feeling was just right on that song.”

The song took on a different meaning when riots in inner-city America led to many young black demonstrators citing the song as a civil rights anthem to social change which also led to some radio stations taking the song off its play list because certain black advocates such as H. Rap Brown began playing the song while organizing demonstrations.

The British press aggravated Reeves one time when someone put a microphone in her face and asked her if she was a militant leader. The British journalist wanted to know if Reeves agreed, as many people had claimed, that Dancing in the Street was a call to riot. To Reeves, the query was patently absurd. ‘My Lord, it was a party song,’ she remarked.

Like many a Motown hit, this song has been covered by many, including The Mamas and The Papas, Val Halen, Grateful Dead, David Bowie & Mick Jagger as a duet, and many more.  But to me, Martha and the Vandellas own this one.

Dancing in the Street
Martha and the Vandellas

Calling out around the world,
Are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer’s here and the time is right
For dancing in the street.
They’re dancing in Chicago,
Down in New Orleans,
In New York City.

All we need is music, sweet music.
There’ll be music everywhere.
There’ll be swinging and swaying and records playing,
Dancing in the street.
Oh, it doesn’t matter what you wear,
Just as long as you are there.
So come on, every guy, grab a girl.
Everywhere around the world
They’ll be dancing.
They’re dancing in the street.

It’s an invitation across the nation,
A chance for folks to meet.
There’ll be laughing, singing, and music swinging,
Dancing in the street.
Philadelphia, P.A.
Baltimore and D.C. now.
Can’t forget the Motor City.

All we need is music, sweet music.
There’ll be music everywhere.
There’ll be swinging and swaying and records playing,
Dancing in the street.
Oh, it doesn’t matter what you wear,
Just as long as you are there.
So come on, every guy, grab a girl.
Everywhere around the world
They’re dancing.
They’re dancing in the street.

Way down in L.A. ev’ry day,
They’re dancing in the street.
(Dancing in the street.)
Let’s form a big, strong line, get in time,
We’re dancing in the street.
(Dancing in the street.)
Across the ocean blue, me and you,
We’re dancing in the street.

Songwriters: Marvin Gaye / William Stevenson / Ivy Hunter
Dancing in the Street lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Carlin America Inc

♫ You Are Everything ♫

I wish I could take credit for tonight’s song, but alas … I cannot.  Once again, our friend Ellen has taken me to task for not making note of the anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s death yesterday, but at the same time, she gave me a way out, noting that I could possibly redeem myself by recognizing Mr. Gaye’s birthday today!  (I swear that woman is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to music!) She was even so kind as to make a couple of recommendations, and thus tonight’s song … You Are Everything.

Thank you, Ellen … and remember, the job offer is still open!

This song, written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed, was originally recorded by the Philadelphia soul group The Stylistics in 1971.  Then in 1974, Motown singing duo, Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye recorded the song, and that is the version I am sharing tonight, in honour of what would have been Marvin Gaye’s 80th birthday.  Wow — where do the years go?

Released as the second UK single from their Diana & Marvin album, the song reached #5 in the UK Singles Chart in April 1974, and also became the first official Motown single to be awarded with silver disc for sales in excess of 200,000 copies. It also reached #13 on the Dutch charts and #20 on the Irish Singles Chart. It was never released as a single in the U.S.  I wonder why?

Sadly, Mr. Gaye’s life and career were cut short one day shy of what would have been his 45th birthday when, on April 1, 1984, Gaye’s father, Marvin Gay Sr., fatally shot him at their house in the West Adams district of Los Angeles.  Yet another whose music enriches us, his life ended far too soon.

You Are Evrything
Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye

Today I saw somebody
Who looked just like you
He walked like you do
I thought it was you
As he turned the corner
I called out your name
I felt so ashamed
When it wasn’t you
Wasn’t you

You are everything
And everything is you
Oh, you are everything
And everything is you
‘Cause you are everything
And everything is you

How can I forget
When each face that I see
Brings back memories
Of being with you
I just can’t go on
Living life as I do
Comparing each girl with you
Knowing they just won’t do
They’re not you

‘Cause you are everything
And everything is you
Oh, you are everything
And everything is you
You are everything
And everything is you

Songwriters: Linda Creed / Linda Diane Creed / Thom Bell / Thomas Randolph Bell
You Are Evrything lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

♫ You’re So Vain ♫

An old friend sent me a text message yesterday:

Got a song that you may want to delve in. “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon. A good investigating song. Try and figure out who the three men are that it’s about.

Well, me being me … half deaf and never paying much attention to music trivia until recently … I had no idea that the song was actually ‘about’ anybody, but his challenge piqued my curiosity.

The song, written by Carly Simon herself in 1971, was released the following year, and apparently each of the three verses is about a different ‘vain’ man.  In 2015, she admitted that one of the men was Warren Beatty, but other than that she has only given clues, such as that one of the men’s name contains ‘A’, ‘E’, and ‘R’.  She has also said it is not about Mick Jagger, who contributed uncredited backing vocals to the song, or her ex-husband James Taylor.  Wait … what???  I never knew that James Taylor was married to Carly Simon!  And here I thought James Taylor was saving himself for me!  Where have I been all my life?

In 2015, Simon published her memoir titled “Boys in the Trees”, but she gave away no answers to the puzzle there, either, and the book is largely about her often tumultuous relationship with Taylor.

In short, I don’t know the answer.  Howard Stern does, for she reportedly told him, but swore him to secrecy.  But here are some of the possibilities:

  • Sean Connery
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Terrence Malick  (who???)
  • Bob Rafelson (again, who???)
  • Jack Nicholson
  • Kris Kristofferson
  • Cat Stevens

It is said that during each of the verses, you can hear a whisper of the name that verse is about.  Now, since I do well to even hear the words that are sung, I’ll leave it up to you guys to listen for the whisper.  And thank you, J.R., for issuing the challenge … it was fun!

You’re So Vain
Carly Simon

You walked into the party
Like you were walking on a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf, it was apricot
You had one eye on the mirror
And watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed that they’d be your partner
They’d be your partner, and

You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain,
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you?
Don’t you?

Oh, you had me several years ago
When I was still naive
Well, you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved
And one of them was me
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee, and

You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain, you’re so vain
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you?
Don’t you?

Well I hear you went to Saratoga
And your horse, naturally, won
Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you’re where you should be all the time
And when you’re not, you’re with some underworld spy
Or the wife of a close friend,
Wife of a close friend, and

You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain, you’re so vain
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you?
Don’t you?

Songwriters: Carly E. Simon
You’re So Vain lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

♫ Just To See Her ♫

I haven’t posted a song for a couple of days … not because there was no song in my heart, but simply because I save this pleasure for the end of the day, when the comments are all answered, morning post written & scheduled, family finances taken care of … and the past two nights I have simply been too exhausted to do a music post.  Tonight, though, I am ahead of the game and that soul music is calling to me.  Actually, this one is classified R&B (rhythm & blues), but I still think of it as soul, as music that reaches deep down and pulls out something we may have forgotten existed.

The song written by Jimmy George and Lou Pardini in 1987 and recorded by none other than Smokey Robinson.  Smokey was in a bit of a funk … well, more than a bit, actually … at the time.  His last big hit had been Being With You in 1981, and then in 1984, his friend Marvin Gaye was shot to death by his own father.  Robinson was already addicted to drugs, and Gaye’s death just put the final straw on the camel’s back.  Then in 1986, he and his wife Claudette divorced.  But this record put him back on top.  Surprisingly, Robinson’s only Grammy win came for this song; he won for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male.

Jimmy George and Lou Pardini would go on to join the band Chicago in 2009.

Apropos of nothing, but I found Smokey’s explanation of how he came by his name fascinating:

Smokey-4“My Uncle Claude was my favorite uncle, he was also my godfather. He and I were really, really close. He used to take me to see cowboy movies all the time when I was a little boy because I loved cowboy movies. He got a cowboy name for me, which was Smokey Joe. So from the time I was three years old if people asked me what my name was I didn’t tell them my name was William, I told them my name was Smokey Joe. That’s what everyone called me until I was about 12 and then I dropped the Joe part. I’ve heard that story about him giving it to me because I’m a light skinned Black man but that’s not true.”

Just to See Her
Smokey Robinson

Just to see her
Just to touch her
Just to hold her in my arms again one more time

If I could feel her warm embrace
See her smiling face
Can’t find anyone to take her place
I’ve got to see her again

I would do anything
I would go anywhere
There’s nothing I wouldn’t do
Just to see her again

I can’t hide it no
I can’t fight it
It’s so hard to live without the love she gave to me

Doesn’t she know it
I tried hard not to show it
Can’t I make her realize that she really needs me again

I would do anything
I would go anywhere
There’s nothing I wouldn’t do
Just to see her again
She brightened up my everyday
Made me feel so good in every way
If I could have her back to stay
I’ve got to see her again

I want to see her
(Just to see her)
Hold her hold her hold her
(Just to see her) see her
Just to touch her

Touch her
I would do anything
I would go anywhere
There’s nothing I wouldn’t do
Just to see her again
She brightened up my everyday
Makes me feel so good in every way
If I could have her back to stay (today)
I’ve got to see her again

it would it would it would
(Just to see her) make me feel so good
(Just to see her)if I if I could only see her again
Just see her again
Just to see her theres nothin’ I wouldn’t do
Just to see her oh don’t you know its true
Just to see her (if I could only see her again oh)

Songwriters: Jimmy George / Louis Joseph Pardini
Just to See Her lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

♫ Sexual Healing ♫

So last night we had us some Stevie Wonder, and tonight, I got some Marvin Gaye running barefoot through the detritus of my mind.  Released in 1982, this was Gaye’s first single since leaving Motown earlier that year.

A bit of background:

In the winter of 1981, Marvin Gaye had relocated to Ostend, Belgium, following the end of a European tour amid financial difficulties with the Internal Revenue Service and the end of his second marriage. Struggling with depression and cocaine addiction, Gaye had agreed to move to Ostend on the advice of longtime resident Freddy Cousaert. While in Ostend, Gaye began to curb his drug use and recover from his depression, partaking in Ostend’s beaches. Gaye also began cutting ties with his longtime recording label, Motown, following the release of In Our Lifetime, an album the musician did not declare to be finished. He declared that he would never record with the label ever again after he accused the label of betraying his creativity.

Sexual Healing reached number one on Billboard’s Hot R&B Singles chart, where it stayed for a record ten weeks before being replaced by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s duet, “The Girl Is Mine”. The success was similar on the Hot 100 where it peaked at number three. This peak at number three made Gaye the second artist in the history of the Hot 100 chart (after Aretha Franklin) to have a hit song peak at each position from one to ten on the chart.

When Gaye left Belgium and toured to support the Midnight Love album, he started using drugs again and became mentally unstable. He moved in with his parents and was shot and killed by his father after an argument on April 1, 1984 – the day before his 45th birthday, which I have mentioned before.

Now sit back and like you some Marvin Gaye, okay?

Sexual Healing
Marvin Gaye

Oh, baby now let’s get down tonight
Ooh baby, let’s get down tonight

Baby
Baby let’s get down tonight
Ooh

Baby, I’m hot just like an oven
Ooh
Baby now let’s get down tonight

Baby, I’m hot just like an oven
I need some lovin’
And baby, I can’t hold it much longer
It’s getting stronger and stronger

And when I get that feeling
I want sexual healing
Sexual healing, oh baby
Makes me feel so fine

Helps to relieve my mind
Sexual healing baby, is good for me
Sexual healing is something that’s good for me

Baby, I’m hot just like an oven
I need some lovin’
And baby, I can’t hold it much longer
It’s getting stronger and stronger

Baby, I got sick this mornin’
A sea was stormin’ inside of me
Baby, I think I’m capsizin’
The waves are risin’ and risin’

And when I get that feeling
I want sexual healing
Sexual healing is good for me
Makes me feel so fine, it’s such a rush
Helps to relieve the mind, and it’s good for us

Sexual healing, baby, it’s good for me
Sexual healing is something that’s good for me

You’re my medicine, open up and let me in
Darling, you’re so great, I can’t wait for you to operate
You’re my medicine, open up and let me in
Darling, you’re so great, I can’t wait for you to operate

Baby, open up and let me in
It’s getting stronger and stronger
Baby, open up and let me in
I can’t wait for you to operate
I can’t wait for you to operate, baby
I can’t wait for you to operate
Baby, open up and let me in
I can’t for you to operate

Songwriters: David Ritz / Marvin Gaye / Odell Brown
Sexual Healing 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