♫ Ain’t No Mountain High Enough ♫

Since today is Juneteenth, and a special celebration since it is now officially a federal holiday, I thought it only appropriate to play some Motown — in my book some of the best music produced in the U.S.!  Of course, since I feature Motown songs and artists pretty often in these posts, I’ve already played most of my favourites at one point or another … some of them twice.  This one I’ve played only once, two years ago in 2019, so it will be new to many of you.   And Happy Juneteenth!


Ain’t No Mountain High Enough is an R&B/soul song written by the husband/wife songwriting team of Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson in 1966 for the Tamla label, a division of Motown.  Nick Ashford was inspired by an experience when he first moved to New York. He was walking down a Manhattan thoroughfare, determined that New York City would not get the best of him; the words “Ain’t no mountain high enough” popped into his head.

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell recorded the original version, which peaked at #19 US in 1967. Uriel Jones of The Funk Brothers, who played the drums on Gaye and Terrell’s original version, recalled …

“Ashford and Simpson had written the song and they always came to the studio with charts. This time was no exception; they came with the song fully written out. The lyrics were written out too. They were one of the few producers and writers who had full charts and made us work from them. They knew 95 percent what they wanted to hear. Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua were the actual producers in charge of the recording. We did the rhythm track first, then they put the horns on second. Then they recorded Tammi Terrell’s vocal, then they did Marvin Gaye’s next. Each vocal was done separately, the singer in the studio with the producer on their own, and they put it all together at the end. You know, I never heard the finished song until I switched on the radio and it was playing.”

British soul singer Dusty Springfield wanted to record the song but Ashford & Simpson declined, hoping it would give them access to the Detroit-based label. As Valerie Simpson later recalled, “We played that song for her (Springfield) but wouldn’t give it to her, because we wanted to hold that back. We felt like that could be our entry to Motown.”

Diana Ross & The Supremes recorded a version of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough which was more faithful to the Terrell-Gaye original version as a duet with The Temptations. That song was an album cut from a joint LP released by Motown Records in 1968 on the two superstar groups, titled Diana Ross & the Supremes Join The Temptations.

In spring 1970, after the Top 20 success of her first solo single, Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand), Ashford and Simpson had Ross re-record Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

Motown chief Berry Gordy did not like the record upon first hearing it. He hated the spoken-word passages and wanted the song to begin with the climactic chorus/bridge. It was not until radio stations nationwide were editing their own versions and adding it to their playlists that Ashford and Simpson were able to convince Gordy to release an edited three-minute version as a single. Ross’ version of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough rose up to number one on both the pop and R&B singles charts. Ross received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

I prefer the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell version, but the Diana Ross version is good, as well, so I proffer both!

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell

Listen baby, ain’t no mountain high
Ain’t no valley low, ain’t no river wide enough baby
If you need me call me no matter where you are
No matter how far don’t worry baby
Just call my name I’ll be there in a hurry
You don’t have to worry

‘Cause baby there ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe

Remember the day I set you free
I told you you could always count on me darling
From that day on, I made a vow
I’ll be there when you want me
Some way, some how

‘Cause baby there ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe

Oh no darling
No wind, no rain
Or winters cold can stop me baby, na na baby
‘Cause you are my goal
If you’re ever in trouble
I’ll be there on the double
Just send for me, oh baby, ha

My love is alive
Way down in my heart
Although we are miles apart
If you ever need a helping hand
I’ll be there on the double
Just as fast as I can
Don’t you know that there

Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe

Don’tcha know that there
Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
Ain’t mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough

Songwriters: Valerie Simpson / Nickolas Ashford
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ Back In My Arms Again ♫

It’s been a while, I think, since I played any Supremes’ songs and tonight I was in the mood for their upbeat style, so I went in search of (and found) one that I haven’t played here before!

This was The Supremes’ fifth consecutive #1 hit in the US.  It was, as most of The Supremes’ music was, written by the songwriting team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, known collectively as Holland-Dozier-Holland.  I did not know this, but The Supremes were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts and the most successful American vocal group, with 12 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, all but one written by Holland-Dozier-Holland.

This was released in 1965 at a time when the friendship between the three — Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard — was becoming strained, as Mary and Florence became frustrated that Diana Ross was becoming the main focus of the group.  Perhaps as an appeasement, Mary and Florence’s names are mentioned in the third verse …

How can Mary tell me what to do
When she lost her love so true?
And Flo, she don’t know
‘Cause the boy she loves is a romeo

The song went to #1 in the U.S. and Canada, #40 in the UK.

Back in My Arms Again
The Supremes

All day long, I hear my telephone ring
Friends calling giving their advice
From the boy I love, I should break away
‘Cause heartaches, he’ll bring one day

I lost him once through friends’ advice
But it’s not gonna happen twice
‘Cause all advice ever gotten me
Was really long and sleepless nights
(Oooooh!)

But now, he’s back in my arms again
Right by my side
I got him back in my arms again
So satisfied
(Oooooh!)

It’s easy for friends to say let him go
But I’m the one who needs him so
It’s his love that makes me strong
Without him, I can’t go on

This time, I’ll live my life at ease
Being happy loving whom I please
And each time we make romance,
I’ll be thankful for a second chance
(Oooooh!)

‘Cause he’s back in my arms again
Right by my side
I got him back in my arms again
So satisfied
(Oooooh!)

How can Mary tell me what to do
When she lost her love so true?
And Flo, she don’t know
‘Cause the boy she loves is a Romeo

I listened once to my friends’ advice
But it’s not gonna happen twice
‘Cause all advice ever gotten me
Was really long and sleepless nights
(Oooooh!)

I got him back in my arms again
Right by my side
I got him back in my arms again
So satisfied
(Oooooh!)

I’m satisfied
So satisfied, I’m satisfied
I’m satisfied, so satisfied

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Edward Jr. Holland / Lamont Herbert Dozier / Brian Holland
Back in My Arms Again lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ Because ♫

The other night, I played a song by the British group the Dave Clark Five, and in the comments, a friend said his favourite by them was Because.  The song rang a bell, and when I went and listened, I remembered it well, remembered liking it back in the day.  Funny how we don’t think of a song for decades, and all of a sudden it’s clear as a bell.

This song hit #3 in both the U.S. and Canada, but didn’t fare so well on the band’s home turf, likely because in the UK it was released as the B-side of another song, Can’t You See That She’s Mine.  B-side songs just never quite seem to make it to the top of the charts.  According to Wikipedia …

Because was written with the intention of being the Dave Clark Five’s fifth US single, but the band’s label, Epic Records, was initially resistant, believing the ballad strayed too far from the hit-making formula that had proven successful with the band’s previous upbeat singles. In May 1964, the song was released in the UK as the B-side to Can’t You See That She’s Mine. Clark insisted that Because be released as an A-side in the US, and Epic eventually agreed. The single entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number sixty in August, and peaked six weeks later at number three.  Because became the band’s fifth US single to sell more than one million copies.  In Canada, the song reached number three on RPM magazine’s singles chart.

The songwriting credits on the record are given to Dave Clark and Mike Smith, but Because is one of several Dave Clark Five songs claimed to have been co-written by Ron Ryan, rather than by Clark.

I was surprised to find that the Supremes recorded a version of Because on the group’s A Bit of Liverpool (1964), a tribute album dedicated to music of the British Invasion.  And Julian Lennon recorded the song for the soundtrack to Dave Clark’s musical Time (1986). Released as a single in 1985, Lennon’s version reached #40 on the UK Singles Chart, and #8 on the Belgium Singles Chart.

Because
The Dave Clark Five

It’s right that I should care about you
And try to make you happy when you’re blue
It’s right, it’s right to feel the way I do
Because, because I love you

It’s wrong to say I don’t think of you
‘Cause when you say these things
You know it makes me blue

Give me one kiss and I’ll be happy
Just, just to be with you
Give me, give me, a chance to be near you
Because, because I love you

Give me one kiss and I’ll be happy
Just, just to be with you
Give me, give me, a chance to be near you
Because, because I love you
Because, because I love you

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Dave Clark
Because lyrics © Songtrust Ave

 

 

♫ Part-Time Lover ♫

Some nights, there’s nothing but Stevie that will do.  I last played this on in October 2018, so it’s been a while, and if you can listen to this, watch Stevie’s energy without wanting to move with the music, without a smile on your face, then … well, I just don’t think you can!


I had two choices on this one … the studio recording, the quality of which is superior, or the live version.  I chose the live version, because the energy, the emotion, I think adds more to the song than can ever come through on a studio recording.  That isn’t always the case, but Stevie Wonder is an entertainer, not just a singer, and he knows how to engage his audience, his energy is contagious.

According to Songfacts:

Wonder was a pioneer when it came to making and recording music using electronics and computers. This is an early example of digital audio recording, which Wonder put together at his own Wonderland Studios.

One of the devices he used was a LinnDrum, a popular drum machine/sampler. “He bought the second drum machine I ever made,” Roger Linn said in a Songfacts interview. “I think he used my drum machine very well on ‘Part-Time Lover.'”

According to Wonder, he drew on two songs by The Supremes as a musical influence for this one: “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “My World Is Empty Without You.”

Syreeta Wright, who was Wonder’s wife at the time, sang backing vocals. She co-wrote Wonder’s 1970 song “If You Really Love Me” and had her own Top 10 hit with her duet with Billy Preston, “With You I’m Born Again.”

Also featured on this track is Luther Vandross, who can be heard humming at the end of the verses.

Part-Time Lover
Stevie Wonder

Call up, ring once, hang up the phone
To let me know you made it home
Don’t want nothing to be wrong with part-time lover
If she’s with me I’ll blink the lights
To let you know tonight’s the night
For me and you my part-time lover

We are undercover passion on the run
Chasing love up against the sun
We are strangers by day, lovers by night
Knowing it’s so wrong, but feeling so right

If I’m with friends and we should meet
Just pass me by, don’t even speak
Know the word’s “discreet” when part-time lovers
But if there’s some emergency
Have a male friend to ask for me
So then she won’t peek its really you my part-time lover

We are undercover passion on the run
Chasing love up against the sun
We are strangers by day, lovers by night
Knowing it’s so wrong, but feeling so right

I’ve got something that I must tell
Last night someone rang our doorbell
And it was not you my part-time lover
And then a man called our exchange
But didn’t want to leave his name
I guess that two can play the game
Of part-time lovers
You and me, part-time lovers
But, she and he, part-time lovers

Songwriters: Stevie Wonder
Part-Time Lover lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ Where Did Our Love Go ♫ (Redux)

As I said last night, I will be playing Motown tunes for the rest of February … only four days, including today.  Trying to choose from among the hundreds of great Motown tunes tonight, this one actually made my feet start tapping and had me singing along, so … while it may not be Nathan Jones … this is one of my favourites from The Supremes!


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

♫ I Hear A Symphony ♫

I seem to be in Motown mode at the moment, don’t I?  This one came to me tonight when I kept hearing music that wasn’t there.  It’s funny that I cannot hear what is there, and do hear that which isn’t.  At any rate …

This is yet another written by the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who wrote five consecutive #1 hits for The Supremes, starting with Where Did Our Love Go.  Says Lamont Dozier …

“I used to go to the movies and I would see that the main stars had their own theme songs. When they appeared on the screen, you would hear this melody behind them – they had their own little melody each time they appeared in the movie. So the lyrics, ‘Whenever you are near, I hear a symphony,’ it was about this guy. Whenever he came around, in her mind she got this feeling and she heard this melody. He brought out the music in her.”  

You won’t hear a full symphony orchestra in this song, but there is a prominent string section, arranged by Paul Riser, that implies it. Otherwise, the instrumentation is more typical, with a saxophone section and piano (played by Funk Brother Earl Van Dyke). The song evokes classical music in its structure though, building throughout to a kind of crescendo.

Now this I didn’t know … Brian Holland had an affair with Diana Ross in the early ’60s.  In the book The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success and Betrayal, he revealed that the song never got to him until the ’80s, when he was driving one day and the song came on the radio … 

“I hadn’t had any emotional reaction to it before that. It took 25 years for it to sink in how good that song is. Things were happening in our lives by then, Eddie’s and mine, that began to creep into the songs. Those songs were supposed to be about simple things. And at the beginning, they were. It was ‘baby this, baby that.’ But when I hear something like ‘Symphony,’ man, there ain’t nothing simple about it.”

This song peaked at #1 in the U.S., #17 in Canada, and #39 in the UK.

I Hear A Symphony
The Supremes

You’ve given me a true love
And every day I thank you, love
For a feeling that’s so new
So inviting, so exciting

Whenever you’re near, I hear a symphony
A tender melody
Pulling me closer, closer to your arms
Then suddenly (I hear a symphony)
Ooh, your lips are touching mine
A feeling so divine
Till I leave the past behind
I’m lost in a world
Made for you and me

Whenever you’re near, I hear a symphony
Play sweet and tenderly
Every time your lips meet mine, now, baby, baby, baby
You bring much joy within
Don’t let this feeling end
Let it go on and on and on, now, baby, baby, baby
Those tears that fill my eyes
I cry not for myself
But for those who’ve never felt the joy we felt (baby)

Whenever you’re near, I hear a symphony
Each time you speak to me
I hear a tender rhapsody of love now, baby, baby
As you stand holding me
Whispering how much you care
A thousand violins fill the air, now, baby, baby
Don’t let this moment end
Keep standing close to me
Ooh, so close to me, baby, baby, baby, baby
I hear a symphony
A tender melody

Writer/s: JR., BRIAN HOLLAND, EDWARD HOLLAND, EDWARD JR. HOLLAND, LAMONT DOZIER, LAMONT HERBERT DOZIER
Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

♫ Baby Love ♫

I’m taking you back more than half a century tonight, to 1964 when The Supremes recorded Baby Love and hit #1 on both the U.S. and UK charts.  The Motown songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote this, and according to Lamont Dozier …

“I would collaborate with Eddie on lyrics and with Brian on melodies. Then Brian and I would go into the studio and produce the actual record although Eddie should have been put down as one of the producers because he helped teach the artists the tune when the lyric was finished.”

This was the follow-up to Where Did Our Love Go, The Supremes breakout hit and first #1 in America. That song mentions the word “baby” 68 times, so its fitting that their next single had that word in the title.  Baby Love was released on September 17, 1964, while “Where Did Our Love Go” was still on the charts.

The Supremes became the first Motown act to have more than one American number-one single, and by the end of the decade, would have more number-one singles than any other Motown act (or American pop music group) with 12, a record they continue to hold.

Motown gave this song a big push in the UK, where The Supremes were sent to tour starting on October 7, 1964. On October 15, they performed the song on the popular program Top Of The Pops, and near the end of the tour made an appearance with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. On November 25, the song hit #1 on the UK chart, making The Supremes the first Motown group and the first girl group to reach #1 in that territory. It was their only UK #1, as the rest of their career was focused on America. Then second Motown act to hit #1 in the UK was The Four Tops with Reach Out I’ll Be There in 1966.

Baby Love
The Supremes

Baby love, my baby love
I need you, oh how I need you!
But all you do is treat me bad
Break my heart and leave me sad
Tell me, what did I do wrong?
To make you stay away so long

‘Cause baby love, my baby love
Been missing ya, miss kissing ya
Instead of breaking up
Let’s do some kissing and making up
Don’t throw our love away
In my arms why don’t you stay?
Need ya, need ya, baby love, baby love

Baby love, my baby love
Why must we separate, my love?
All of my whole life through
I never loved no one but you
Why you do me like you do?
I get this need

Need to hold you, once again, my love
Feel your warm embrace, my love
Don’t throw our love away
Please don’t do me this way
Not happy like I used to be
Loneliness has got the best of me

My love, my baby love
I need you, oh how I need you!
Why you do me like you do?
After I’ve been true to you
So deep in love with you

Baby, baby, ’til it’s hurtin’ me
‘Til it’s hurtin’ me, baby love
Don’t throw our love away
Don’t throw our love away

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Lamont Dozier / Brian Holland / Eddie Holland

♫ The Happening ♫

Tonight I just thought we all needed something really upbeat, and I can’t think of a single song that is more upbeat than this one by The Supremes.  I did play this one back in 2018, but … shhhhhhh … I won’t tell if you don’t!

This song was written for the 1967 movie The Happening, which starred Anthony Quinn, George Maharis, Michael Parks, Robert Walker Jr., and Faye Dunaway. The film flopped, but the song went to #1 in the US, giving The Supremes their 10th chart-topper in that country.  The songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland co-wrote this with Frank DeVol, who was the musical director for the film.

According to Lamont Dozier …

“We wrote it because of the title. Frank DeVol, it was his music that had to do a lot with that. He had partial music already written, so we took that feeling that he had and added our own interpretation and added melodies and whatever we had to do to make it a pop song. That’s why you’ll find his name on the credits, because he was responsible for some of the music.”

This was The Supremes last hit released under the name “The Supremes.” Later in 1967, they became “Diana Ross & the Supremes.” They reverted back to “The Supremes” in 1970 when Ross left the group.

So now, how ’bout I shut up and just play the song …

The Happening
The Supremes

Hey! Life, look at me, I can see the reality,
‘Cause when you shook me, took me outta my world, I woke up.
Suddenly I just woke up to The Happening.

When you find that you left the future behind.
‘Cause when you got a tender love you don’t take care of,
then you better beware of,
The Happening.

One day you’re up, when you turn around,
You find your world is tumbling down.
It happened to me and it can happen to you.

I was sure, I felt secure until love took a detour.
Yeah! Riding high on top of the world, it happened.
Suddenly it just happened,

I saw my dreams torn apart
when love walked away from my heart.
And when you lose a precious love you need to guide you
something happens inside you,
The Happening.

Now I see life for what it is.
It’s not of dreams, it’s not of bliss.
It happened to me and it can happen to you

And then it happened.
Oo, and then it happened.
Oo, and then it happened.

Is it real? Is it fake?
Is this game of life a mistake?
‘Cause when I lost the love I thought was mine for certain,
Suddenly it starts hurtin’.

I saw the light too late when that fickle finger of fate.
Yeah! It came and broke my pretty balloon,
I woke up, suddenly I just woke up, so sure,
I felt secure until love took a detour.
‘Cause when you got a tender love you don’t take care of,
then you better beware of,
The Happening.
The Happening.

Songwriters: FRANK DE VOL, EDDIE HOLLAND, BRIAN HOLLAND, LAMONT DOZIER
The Happening lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ I Can’t Help Myself ♫ (Redux)

I seem to be ‘redux-ing’ a lot these days, don’t I?  Funny how an assassination, a near war, a lethal plane crash, Christmas & New Year all hitting within a week can leave you so far underwater that you cannot even see the surface.  At least it’s been well over a year since I played this one, and you’ve gotta admit this is a great one, so perhaps you can forgive me just this once?


This song was written by the successful Motown team of Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland, who wrote most of The Supremes hits. The melody of this song is very similar to Where Did Our Love Go, which Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote for The Supremes. According to Lamont Dozier, the title came about because he couldn’t help himself from working with the same tune.

The story behind the song …

“I stayed with my grandmother when I was a kid. She owned her own home beauty shop, and when the women would come up the walkway to get their hair done, my grandfather would be pedaling around in the garden. He was a bit of a flirt, and would say, ‘How you doin’, sugar pie? Good morning, honey bunch.’ He was one of those types of guys. My grandmother had a big bay window to the front of the house. She’d say, ‘Look at that old codger – he thinks I don’t see. I know what he’s doing.’ He was just flirting with his big smile. I’m sitting there on the porch watching this – I’m probably 11 or 12. I was like a sponge, soaking it up.

Years later, at Motown, I’m sitting at the piano. I’d take these mind trips back to my childhood, and I’m trying to see what this piano part is telling me. Sure enough, there my grandfather is, pedaling in the garden. That memory comes to my mind’s eye, and I know where the song is supposed to go. I hear him saying, ‘Good morning, sugar pie. How you doin’, honey bunch?’ That’s what started it.”

This was the first US #1 hit for The Four Tops, and it was a big one, topping the Hot 100 for two weeks and the R&B chart for an amazing nine. The group had paid their dues: they formed in 1953 and didn’t get a Motown deal until 10 years later. Their first Motown single, Baby I Need Your Loving,  did very well, but this one established them as one of the top acts in the company.

I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)
Four Tops

Sugar pie, honey bunch
You know that I love you
I can’t help myself
I love you and nobody else
In and out my life
You come and you go
Leaving just your picture behind
And I kissed it a thousand times
When you snap your finger or wink your eye
I come a-running to you
I’m tied to your apron strings
And there’s nothing that I can do
I can’t help myself
No, I can’t help myself
Sugar pie, honey bunch
I’m weaker than a man should be
I can’t help myself
I’m a fool in love, you see
Want to tell you I don’t love you
Tell you that we’re through
And I’ve tried
But ev’ry time I see your face
I get all choked up inside
When I call your name
Girl, it starts the flame
(Burning in my heart
Tearing it all apart)
No matter how I try
My love I cannot hide
‘Cause sugar pie, honey bunch
You know that I’m weak for you
I can’t help myself
I love you and nobody else
Sugar pie, honey bunch
Do anything you ask me to
I can’t help myself
I want you and nobody else
Sugar pie, honey bunch
You know that I love you
I can’t help myself
I love you and nobody else

Songwriters: Edward Jr. Holland / Lamont Dozier / Brian Holland
I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ You Keep Me Hangin’ On ♫

This is the first night in about a week that I have have had a song in my heart, so I feel a little rusty, like a coat just taken out of mothballs, or a motorcycle just out for its first ride of the spring.  Okay, maybe a bit of an over-dramatization, but in truth, I feel like I haven’t had a song for years!  This one came as a result of blogging friend John Howell, albeit indirectly.

Holland-Dozier-Holland

Holland-Dozier-Holland

As is the case with much Motown music, this one was written by the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland who deliberately set out to write a rock song for the Supremes. Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland were a big part of the Motown Sound. They not only wrote most of the hits for The Supremes, The Four Tops, and many other acts on the label, but they also produced and arranged the sessions, giving them nearly complete control of the product.

According to Lamont Dozier …

“I’ve often broken up with a girlfriend for a week just to be able to get that real feeling of hurt so that I can write what I write from experience! I should add that I always make sure we patch up again after the week’s over. But I’m constantly working at the piano – that’s my source of release, like a tranquilizer for me.”

This was the Supremes’ eighth US #1 hit.  Although it never won a Grammy, this song (along with Where Did Our Love Go, which never won a Grammy either) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

You Keep Me Hangin’ On
The Supremes

Set me free why don’t cha babe
Get out my life why don’t cha babe
‘Cause you don’t really love me
You just keep me hangin’ on

Set me free why don’t cha babe
Get out my life why don’t cha babe (ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)
‘Cause you don’t really need me
But you keep me hangin’ on

Why do you keep a comin’ around playing with my heart?
Why don’t cha get out of my life and let me make a brand new start?
Let me get over you the way you gotten over me, yeah, yeah

Set me free why don’t cha babe
Get out my life why don’t cha babe (ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)
‘Cause you don’t really love me
You just keep me hangin’ on
No, you don’t really need me
You just keep me hangin’ on

You say although we broke up you still just wanna be friends
But how can we still be friends when seeing you only breaks my heart again
(And there ain’t nothing I can do about it)

Whoa, ooh, whoa, ooh, whoa
Whoa, ooh, whoa, ooh, whoa, whoa
Whoa, ooh, whoa, ooh, whoa, whoa
Whoa, ooh, whoa, ooh, whoa,
Yeah, yeah

Get out, get out of my life
And let me sleep at night
‘Cause you don’t really love me
You just keep me hangin’ on

You say you still care for me but your heart and soul needs to be free
And now that you’ve got your freedom you wanna still hold on to me
You don’t want me for yourself so let me find somebody else

Set me free why don’t cha babe
Get out my life why don’t cha babe (ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)
‘Cause you don’t really love me
You just keep me hangin’ on

Why don’t cha be a man about it and set me free (ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)
Now you don’t care a thing about me
You’re just using me, hey, abusing me

Get out, get out of my life
And let me sleep at night (ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)
‘Cause you don’t really love me
You just keep me hangin’ on (ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)

Songwriters: Edward Holland Jr. / Lamont Dozier / Brian Holland
You Keep Me Hangin’ On lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC