Sep 082020

No need to shoehorn Motown acts into some Rushmore; here they get their very own.

Here are my ground rules but feel free to go ahead and make your own.

This is Motown, not soul more generally, not Stax/Volt, not Philly International. If you are on the Motown Rushmore then your bones had to be made at Motown.

We all know that Berry Gordy, the Funk Brothers, Holland-Dozier-Holland, and a bunch of other behind the scenes people had as much to do with Motown’s success as any act did. Maybe they will get their own Rushmore one of these days but for now, for this Rushmore, these are the acts (individuals or groups) whose names were on the discs.

I’ll offer up the act I think is the Beatles of Motown, the undisputed act that has to be carved on the Mount – Marvin Gaye. Singer, songwriter, sweet soul-pop love songs, the duets, and the pièce de résistance of “What’s Goin’ On.” A song so magnificent we have to present it twice

With James Jamerson:

Who shares the Mount with Marvin?


  11 Responses to “The Mount Rushmore Of Rock & Roll: Motown Edition”

  1. diskojoe

    I found & purchased the Marvin Gaye 2 CD Anthology for $1.99 @ my local Savers last week even though I already have the box set.

    My nomination would be for Smokey Robinson due to his songwriting for himself & the other Motown acts.

  2. This is a no-brainer for me – and I’m still going to chide you, Al, for where all this is going: Marvin, Smokey, The Temptations, The Supremes. Sorry, Four Tops and Steve Wonder (the latter, whose key work appears in the 1970s, as Motown’s glory years in Detroit wind down), we’ll have a display on you in the Visitor’s Center lobby.

  3. Mr Mod, I have no idea where this is going so I will accept no chiding.

    Hard to argue with your choices…however…as I stated long ago, I’ll take the Best Of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas over the Best Of The Supremes in a head to head battle but I recognize the overarching importance of the Supremes which may require their inclusion.

    Tops vs Temps, that’s a tough one.

  4. I don’t think Tops vs Temps is really that tough a choice when you look at the breadth of each group’s catalog. The Four Tops feature one lead singer with one (excellent) style of song: the insistent, pleading, stomping 4-on-the-floor assault. The Temps have Ruffin and Kendricks, sweet and sour, hard and soft. I simply think their combination of tools and hits makes them a shoe-in!

  5. I think maybe the best of the Tops is better than the best of the Temps but unlike Martha vs Diana that means the best 4 or 5 not the best dozen.

    Add in Dennis Edward and the multiple leads edge becomes even stronger. And the Temptations had the different eras with the psychedelic soul stuff.

    Maybe it’s not all that tough.

  6. H. Munster

    Junior Walker, Gladys Knight, and the Marvelettes definitely don’t make it, but I listen to them a lot more than to the Four Tops, the Supremes, and Stevie Wonder.

  7. Man, I love the idea of Stevie not being quite eligible, since most of his best work came in the 70s.

    But I’m afraid he’s still such a towering figure—single most talented American pop musician of the past 60 years, for my money—that I can’t go for this oh so tempting loophole. So:

    Stevie Wonder
    Smokey Robinson
    The Temptations
    The Supremes

    Marvin Gaye (whose best work also came in the 70s, although less lopsidedly, perhaps) nearly edged out Robinson, but while I think Gaye’s two best albums are better than any of Smokey’s albums, putting together all the singles each man wrote and/or performed, American’s Greatest Living Poet (as Bob Dylan may or may not have said) gets the nod.

  8. Scott (the other one), whether we go one way or another regarding Marvin’s best decade, you’re right: the difference is not as lopsided as that for Stevie. I am of the belief that Marvin’s best work was in the ’60s. I’m pretty sure I’m on record as saying that the What’s Going On album is overrated, padded with semi-Muzak takes on the three or so great songs. I hope to think I’ve been wrong some day, because the best stuff from his ’70s albums is OUTSTANDING.

  9. Here’s my Best Of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, circa 1966:

    Come & Get These Memories
    (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
    Dancing In The Street
    Live Wire
    You’ve Been In Love Too Long
    Nowhere To Run
    Wild One
    Jimmy Mack
    Honey Chile
    (We Got) Honey Love
    Third Finger, Left Hand

    Here’s my Best Of The Supremes, circa 1966:

    Where Did Our Love Go
    Baby Love
    Run, Run, Run
    Stop! In The Name Of Love
    Back In My Arms Again
    Come See About Me
    Nothing But Heartaches
    Love Is Here & Now You’re Gone
    My World Is Empty Without You
    You Keep Me Hangin’ On
    You Can’t Hurry Love
    Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart

    These aren’t the greatest hits albums that came out around the time; they are my choices, sticking to a 12 track album. Not an easy choice, but having gone through this exercise I’d still choose Martha Reeves.

    I will concede that the Vandellas stop there but I could come pretty close to a second album for the Supremes.

  10. Wait, wait! I heard the Isley Brothers’ “This Old Heart Of Mine” this morning. Doesn’t that alone warrant their inclusion?

  11. Happiness Stan

    My head says Smokey, Marvin, The Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie, my heart and feet remembering dancing with girls when it was the most exciting thing in the world would go for Smokey, the Supremes, Four Tops – and Holland Dozier Holland, cos their songs were the fuel that made the engines run.

    The guys who built the cathedrals here in the middle ages used to add pagan carvings, tucked away where you’d only find them if you knew where to look. If I was up there hammering away, I’d make sure the Marvellettes and the Velvelettes had a little spot to groove on down in, and somewhere under the folds of Marvin’s jacket, I’d spend a few hours chipping away a corner for R Dean Taylor, whose three singles on Tamla (yeah, I know, but this is my chisel work in my own time) stop me in my tracks whatever I’m doing even now, nearly fifty years after I first heard them.

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