Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Year Was 1965: Significant Events in Motown’s History Pt. 2


Marvin Gaye's first number one hit single
In the month of May Smokey Robinson produced his magic formula again with Marvin Gaye, as the latter stepped out of his studio drumming role and turned to singing as the label’s leading up-and-coming male vocalist. Robinson also found time to compose the song “I’ll Be Doggone” with guitarist Marv Tarplin and Pete Moore, founding members of The Miracles, whilst on tour. Marvin Gaye was an emerging genius who co-wrote his first three hit records, “Stubborn Kind of Fellow”, “Hitch Hike” and “Pride and Joy”. He was one of the first artists at Motown to do so. Gaye became brilliant at interpreting other song-writers’ material, improvising and improving on the original song and making it his own in the process. “I’ll Be Doggone” was certainly one of those songs. It topped the Billboard Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles Chart week-ending 22nd May 1965 (1 week). Each member of The Funk Brothers added their own momentum and richness to the song’s groove helping to send the song to the top! 
The Supremes' album  containing
 the 1965 single "Come See About Me"

The Motown organisation was by now a winning brand and a major player within the industry. In the eleven months from August 1964 to June 1965, The Supremes had five number one singles on several singles chart listings. The five consecutive number one hits were “Where Did Our Love Go”, “Baby Love”, “Come See About Me”, “Stop! In the Name of Love”, and “Back in My Arms Again” The industry was now aware of the fact that Berry Gordy Jr. had tremendous power within his hit-making teams, with the credentials for consistent success. The key leading act The Supremes were performing a musical fusion of gospel and rhythm and blues which was sophisticated, innovative and intoxicating, with a high level of musical excellence. It also helped that the women were beautiful and well-dressed as leading fashion icons of the era!  

The fourth of the hit run, the power house song “Stop! In the Name of Love”, knocked The Beatles song “Eight Days a Week” off the number one position with a big bang and started its reign week-ending 27th March 1965 (2 weeks). The Supremes became the first group in Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart history to have four chart topping singles in succession!

The hit album featuring the number one
 singles "Stop! In the of Love"
 and "Back In My Arms Again"
The label then released another monster classic recording called “Back in My Arms Again”, which reached the number one position week-ending 29th May 1965 (1 week), once again produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland. It thus became the fifth consecutive number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart week-ending 12th June (1 week). A new record! The track vocals were laid down on the 22nd December 1964, followed by the dynamic and thunderous bass line of James Jamerson Jr. with Mike Terry’s excellent performance on saxophone and James Gittens’s ringing and driving vibes giving the song its special touch. Studio A was packed with musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performing strings, located on a built-up stage up again the wall, until the company acquired more studio space.

By 1965 many experts in the industry were trying to define the sound’s musical elements but Adam White, a British former music editor of Billboard Magazine, captured the essence brilliantly: “ A bedrock bass line; an emphatic beat accentuated by tambourines performed by both Jack Ashford and James Gittens; pounding percussions, drums and piano tracks; saxophone-driven brass charts; shrill femme backup vocals in the classic call-and-response mode of gospel performances; and those swirling, riff-reinforcing strings of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Motown had finally broken down racial barriers. The musical sophistication spread around the world. When you listen to ‘Back in My Arms Again’ you do not think about the track in terms of black or white sound; the music was an international language with a powerful spiritual force that changed the atmosphere all around you.


About Me

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Old Harlow, Essex, United Kingdom
Kevin Tomlin has over 34 years of teaching experience in Jamaica, England and America, including 15 years teaching music history of black origin and visual art in South Florida, U.S.A., through Arts in Education. Tomlin created special training programmes and workshops for music teachers in South Florida schools, using music history as the foundation, to build exciting programmes of study and support materials for education professionals. Since 2000, he’s taught music history, geography, religious education, history, visual arts and performing arts at schools in Hertfordshire and Essex, at both primary and secondary levels. He conducts research and provides consultancy services for multi-media organisations, schools, recording artists, cultural and faith-based groups and entertainment professionals.

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