What exactly is the “Motown sound?” Does it include horns and doo-wops in your head? There doesn’t have to be a rhyme or reason to jam out to classic Motown songs. There’s also no specific season these “songs of summer” sound best in, but they’ve certainly experienced the hot chart-topping energy.
Detroit sounds have evolved over the years (I.e. Techno & Dance Music, Movement Music Festival, Hip-Hop & Rap). Not to mention, Afro Nation Festival is coming to Detroit this August 2023 for the first time! While talented musicians, songwriters, DJs, and producers continue to mix up the Detroit music scene with cool beats, there will always be a special place in every Detroiter’s heart for Motown songs.
Detroitisit rounded up a sweet classic Detroit music playlist to celebrate the organic Motown songs of summer.
HEATWAVE: MARTHA AND THE VANDELLAS
We’re swinging it way back with these Motown songs of summer. The original song written and composed by Holland-Dozier-Holland was written for “Martha Reeves and The Vandellas. Heat Wave is a 1963 song that was firs released an rpm single. On the Motown subsidiary Gordy label, it hit number one on the Billboard Hot R&B chart. Have a listen and put this golden hit on repeat! After all, the song remained number one for four weeks and peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
BABY, I LOVE YOU: ARETHA FRANKLIN
Aretha Franklin, known as the Queen of Soul, makes any Detroit playlist complete. This bluesy single written by Ronnie Shannon specifically for Aretha, was the only single release from her Aretha Arrives album. This huge hit will get stuck in your head. After all, it peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and spent two weeks at number-one on the Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart. Simmer things down with the live performance that appears on the album Aretha in Paris (1968). Whichever you prefer, the song is all you could ask for from this legendary R&B singer.
BABY LOVE: THE SUPREMES
A list of the best classic Motown songs wouldn’t be complete without Diana Ross. She’s a singular talent that grew much success from her time with American music group, The Supremes. This next hit is a sing-along song to accompany you on your summer love journey. Written and produced by Motown’s main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland in 1964, “Baby Love” topped the Billboard pop singles chart in the United States for 2 months in 1964 (Oct. 25-Nov.21)!
HOW SWEET IT IS (TO BE LOVED BY YOU): MARVIN GAYE
1965 was a time to be alive and listen to the numerous Motown songs that flowed effortlessly. Strip the summer jams down a bit for this next classic Detroit music hit track. ‘How Sweet It Is’ holds it’s own with Gaye’s early stardom talent shining through supple vocals. Minimal instrumentation hits the spot when you’re looking to wind down and reflect.
BACK IN MY ARMS AGAIN: THE SUPREMES
Can’t get enough of The Supremes? We can’t either. This 1965 song was recorded by The Supremes for the Motown label. Return to this tender tribute to a sweet love returned as summer rolls by. You can hear the golden rays dripping from this glorious tune from The Supremes, especially considering this song helped score the fifth of their five consecutive No. 1 hits in ’64-’65.
I CAN’T HELP MYSELF (SUGAR PIE, HONEY BUNCH): FOUR TOPS
This next song needs no introduction. certainly is one of the brightest Motown songs that can bring back nostalgia this summer. Enjoy Levi Stubbs’ pulling at your heartstrings all throughout this vocal pop hit. You and your “sugar pie” will want to get up and groove along with this cherished performance.
THIS OLD HEART OF MINE (IS WEAK FOR YOU): THE ISLEY BROTHERS
“Twist and Shout” your way into this next hip group that already had a name for themselves independent from Motown. However, they’re still on rotation for ranking some of the greatest Motown songs. Feel as free this summer as the Isley Brothers when they left Motown in 1969 to expand their musical capabilities with their own label. You could say this standout song from 1966 was a bit of a commemoration of their time with Holland-Dozier-Holland and Motown’s pop hit productions.
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