CLASSICS: MOTOWN RARITIES

Boy, it seems I’ve been on a Motown kick for the last two-three weeks. Well, I guess why not? They’ve made some awesome music during the time of their reign. Today, I’d like to write about one of my favorite songs from Brenda Holloway called “Every Little Bit Hurts,” released in 1964. This song peaked @ #3 on the R&B charts, and stayed relevant for 14 weeks. This song was HUGE in the early 60s, yet now it’s considered a forgotten gem. I absolutely love the dramatic music composition, and Brenda delivered the emotion of this song superbly. Aretha Franklin recorded a nice version of this song. Well, then again, almost everything Aretha sings was on point back in the day. Alicia Keys also recorded a nice version, however, all I can find is the live version. I know she has a studio version because I saw the video for it. It must be that good o’l copyright license bullsh** shutting Alicia down. It’s a shame cause I really liked her version too. 🙁 On a lighter note, check out Motown: The DVD from Amazon. It’s a DVD of performances from legendary Motown artists, which includes Brenda Holloway.

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You know, I have to be honest, I was never really a huge fan of Jermaine Jackson’s music. There were really only 3 songs I liked from him. The first song was called, “Let’s Be Young Tonight,” recorded in 1976 under the Tamla Motown (UK) label. This was one of my top favorite disco songs from that year. Its highest peak was #19 on the R&B charts. Very few disco songs do I consider a romantic song. This record was perfect to play while out on a honeymoon night. Back from that, the only two other songs that came after I really liked were the following, “Let’s Get Serious,” which is a groovy funk type song that peaked @ #9 on the charts; and then there’s “Do What You Do,” another very popular song in 1985 that peaked @ #14. For you Jermaine Jackson fans out there, check out Jermaine Jackson’s – Dynamite Videos on DVD on Amazon.

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On the Jackson 5 album titled “ABC,” there is a cute song rarely heard called “2-4-6-8,” released in 1970. It is strange that I don’t remember hearing this one the radio. Maybe it’s because I was only 3 years old when this song came out? But usually you’d continue to hear a major artist’s song off and on at least 3 years once it’s been on the charts. So even at age 6 I’d think I would remember. Not sure… The first time I heard this song, was actually when I was watching their cartoon special called “The Jackson 5ive.” I was so tickled, because it was my first time ever watching a cartoon character really dance. I believe this was the first time I ever saw a “Black” cartoon; and “Fat Albert came soon after. “The Jackson 5ive” was a fun cartoon where all the Jackson characters get in to all kinds of mischief. There were many other big hits from this album such as “I Found That Girl,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and finally “I Don’t Know Why I Love You,” which was originally written and performed by the legendary Stevie Wonder.

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The song called “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” was released in November of 1968. Within about two months, the song shot up to #2 on the American Billboard’s Top 100 Charts; and also peaked #3 on UK’s single charts. It’s hard to believe that a song that was once popular as it was, is virtually unheard of by most, if not all the current generation of music lovers. This song was HUGE, not just because it was a hit, but because the song was sung by two of the biggest acts under the Motown label. This was one of my very favorite songs growing up. The song was written by Kenneth Gamble and Jerry Ross, and was originally recorded in 1966, under Mercury Records by Dee Dee Warwick, Dionne Warwick’s sister, and cousin of the late Whitney Houston. Dee Dee’s recording of the song peaked at #13 on the R&B charts.

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You know, I’ve always had mixed feelings concerning Diana Ross. It was well known that she was not a very nice person (and probably still the case); not to mention claiming that she was the one who “discovered” the Jackson 5. Sorry to all the Diana Ross fans, but, I never saw her as a talented singer. I mean, not in the sense of Aretha Franklin talent, or Gladys Knight, or even a Chaka Khan. I don’t think her career would have been as successful as it was, had it not been for Barry Gordy. Sorry, just my opinion. But that doesn’t mean I think she didn’t have great music, however, that’s just it, without that great music, her voice was just mediocre to average. I’ve always felt that she was a better actress than she was a singer, and her role as Billie Holiday, in the cult classic movie “Lady Sings The Blues” proves that hands down. The movie grossed over $20M, and her soundtrack album grossed about over $2M, that’s pretty huge for what is in essence a biographical film. Although, to my understanding, the entire soundtrack “Lady Sings The Blues” was a #1 hit; however, one of the most memorable and profound songs from that soundtrack “Good Morning Heartache,” only peaked at #34 and stayed on the charts for 12 weeks in 1973.

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Smokey Robinson & The Miracles was another awesome group that laid down hit after hit back in the day. But right now, I’d like to write about a great song called “More Love,” which was released about two months before I was born in 1967. Along with Mr. Robinson’s good looks, he has a unique falsetto, unlike any male singer I’ve ever heard! His distinct & recognizable voice is so smooth that he can damn near serenade any one or anything. Add music to that voice and he’ll at least have your head popping (at bear minimum). Now, here is the interesting part, about the end of July in 1967, the song peaked at 23, and stayed in the top 100 for only 11 weeks. The reason why this is so interesting to me, is because it did not do nearly as well (in comparison to their other mega hits), yet it is one of the most memorable songs of their career. Go figure?!?!? However, this does prove one thing…. It proves that music is of the heart, and not of the stats! Do you want to know another tidbit? The song was so popular that Kim Carnes recorded her version of More Love in 1980, and it too became a hit with it peaking at #10, and stayed on the charts for 19 weeks. I absolutely loved how Kim started the song off with the stringed instruments. The song itself is just a beautiful medley.

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I feel extremely fortunate to be one of the very few to still own this classic masterpiece. Stevie has got a lot of great music on this album. But I think the song that is most remembered (in my opinion, then again he has just so many),  “For Once In My Life.” What a wonderful classic song to sing, or play for someone you really care about. The words just say it all. The album was released under the label of Motown, and in 1968, this song hit the number 2 spot on the music charts, and stayed on the top 100 for 14 weeks. Considering how popular this song was, I was pretty shocked that it did not stay on the charts longer. Another popular song on the same album is called “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day.” This song peaked at #9, and stayed on the charts for 13 weeks. Check this album gem on Spotify’s Web Player.

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I love Stevie Wonder, and he is most definitely one of the greatest living performers of our time. It is such a pleasure to hear him sing, he always gave us his all, and has always projected his voice. This was a young man that definitely was not scared to sing. Every time I think of Stevie, I can’t help but to think if Stevie and Jose Feliciano were young today, and if Ray Charles was still with us as a kid, the way that the music industry is now, I’d doubt that these phenomenal artists would have ever been given a chance at stardom. What do you think? Today’s musical culture is so lost, that in the next few decades, kids will probably tell you there were no such thing as successful blind performers!

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But, let’s talk about this particular album released by Stevie. The Complete Stevie Wonder (2015), is truly the MOST complete musical album of any artist I’ve ever seen. This will make you realize just how much he has contributed to the music community. The album has a whopping 48 disc collection! Starting from his earliest work to his present. It has just about all of his greatest hits, and some never heard before recordings. When I saw this collection, I thought to myself, Damn, maybe Stevie Wonder was the hardest working man in show business?! I don’t ever recall even James Brown label releasing an album trilogy this huge! You Stevie fans will definitely enjoy this album. He sings all kinds of music, jazz, R&B, his music label even included some of his christmas singles. This collection is jaw dropping. I don’t think the average person would have been able to afford this collection if we saw it in a store. Do you see why music streaming like Spotify and Napster are so important? The average cost of a single CD today is about $18.99 x 48 = $911.52, but you can download and listen to all of these songs for just $10 a month (and everything else in it’s 36m+ library and additional access to their international around the world music) with @320 highest quality. That’s 9 years worth of unlimited Napster for the full value of Stevie’s collection. Or you can sign up for a FREE Spotify account, and listen to the entire collection FREE on your PC (and in random shuffle mode on your Smartphone). I don’t remember if the free version of Spotify has a limit on skips for on-demand listening; or they may hit you with more commercials; but who cares, your getting it free! Honestly, I’m not going to go in to all the songs I like because they’re just too many; and I’m sure true Stevie fans feel the same way. Check out the album on Spotify.

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