Founded in 1959, Detroit-based record company Motown took no time at all to completely transform the music industry. A powerhouse for producing new talent, and a whole lot of number one hits in the process, this tiny label went on to enjoy decades of domination on the airwaves – thanks to a stunning roster of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.
To celebrate the indelible legacy of Motown, we’ve compiled a list of its very best tracks. With a wealth of smash hits at our disposal, rest assured that choosing a top five was no easy feat.
The Jackson 5 - I Want You Back
A guaranteed party starter courtesy of MJ et al. Released in 1969 with an eleven-year-old Michael on lead vocals, the track raced to the top of the US charts and then went on to sell a whopping six million copies worldwide. Thanks to the undeniable groove of the song’s iconic bassline, it has remained a timeless hit for the Motown record label.
Martha and the Vandellas - Dancing in the Street
Penned by Marvin Gaye and pals, this song first became popular in 1964 when it was recorded by Martha and the Vandellas. Though famously covered by the super-collaboration of David Bowie and Mick Jagger, the bombastic original is still considered the best. The tune sees an elated Martha Reeves chirping over a brass fanfare – extending an open invitation to a non-stop shindig in the streets.
Stevie Wonder - Superstition
No list of Motown greats would be complete without the legendary Stevie Wonder – who composed, produced, arranged, and performed this 1972 disco favourite. Superstition is funk epitomised – resplendent with infectious slap bass, soaring trumpets and an unforgettable croon. A highlight from Stevie Wonder’s endless repertoire, this tune vividly showcases the artist’s boundless talents for the whole wide world to hear.
Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Despite becoming Marvin Gaye’s most recognised hit, this track was originally rejected as a single and featured only as an album cut. However, after non-stop radio attention, Motown head honchos quickly changed their tune and released the song as a 7” single – which immediately shot to the top of the US charts. The song itself, which recounts the protagonist’s dismay after hearing of his girlfriend’s infidelity, is a gorgeously orchestrated serving of R&B which perfectly blends Gaye’s raspy vocal with harmonious backing vocals.
The Supremes - You Can’t Hurry Love
At the height of their fame in the 60s, The Supremes were commonly regarded as Motown’s most successful act – earning 12 number one singles before the decade was through. Led by the inimitable Diana Ross, this tune showcased the trio’s developing sound from teen pop into more mature themes and arrangements. A musical lesson in waiting patiently to find that special someone in your life, such was the track’s universal appeal that the group even released a version sung in Italian: L'amore Verrà.
Like what you’ve heard? Well you’re in luck, because we’ve made you guys a Spotify playlist of the above tunes and so much more! Listen from any device through Bluetooth and Spotify Connect on loads of our digital radios. Our Highway in-car entertainment adapters even let you take your favourite playlists on the road.
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