Ah, is there any music more uplifting? More optimistic and pure than Motown? Back in the 60's and 70's Motown Records was responsible for producing some of the greatest soul, funk, r&b and jazz records this planet has ever known. So for the sake of this list it's not only confined to those signed to the Motown label, but any song that exemplifies the spirit of those great and pioneering genres of music. It's a style of music that combined all the great elements, instruments of all kinds, and the live performances were pure spectacle, but still honest. It's a spirit from an era we could all desperately learn something from. 10 Great Motown Songs.
10. Jackson 5 - "I Want You Back"
Nowhere better to start than with a classic song by a group of 5 brothers, led by a young Michael Jackson. The Jackson 5 weren't around long before they caught the attention of one Gladys Knight who recommended the group to Motown Records and the rest is history. This song still has one of the most catchy beats and rhythms. Despite what people associate with the Jackson's name today, their talent and footprint on the music world is undeniable.
2. Marvin Gaye - "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"
Perhaps one of the greatest soul songs of all time is "I Heard It Through The Grapevine". Marvin was a gifted singer and his version of the song has become the quintessential one. Enough time has passed that this song should become known to current generations. Hopefully that will allow for a resurgence in the genre.
3. J.J. Jackson - "But It's Alright"
J.J. was from the Bronx and was never under the Motown label, but his jazzy styles and magnificent voice certainly made him an icon in the 60's and 70's. His vocal style was so commanding that he was typically referred to as a 'belter' rather than a singer. "But It's Alright" can lift me out of the deepest sorrows whenever I hear it...to this day these words can still hold true for many people.
4. Elvin Bishop - "Fooled Around And Fell In Love"
Not that any genre should be defined by the race, or sex of those who perform it, but as a point of interest Elvin Bishop is one of two caucasian artists on this list. "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" deserves a spot here for it's simple melodies and marvelous message of pure love. The exact spirit motown songs typically embody. Many filmmakers agree with me as this song has been used countless times in movies over the decades since it's 1976 release.
5. The Four Seasons - "December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)"
This one is an old favourite of mine. The Four Seasons could be singing about anything and this song could still get the dance floors packed. Is there anything better than that piano hook or the doo-doo-doos at the end of the track?
6. The Drifters - "Up On The Roof"
Man I think I was born in the wrong decade. I can totally relate to a song like this, just finding peace within your own mind away from everything else. Even if it's just on top of your building in the middle of a city. The Drifters were one of the first 'doo-wop' groups. It's where Ben E. King got his start and he was one of the more famous members of the group. He'd later go on to record a classic sould song of his own "Stand By Me"
7. Otis Redding - "These Arms Of Mine"
Otis could honestly have a category all to his own. One of the purest musical talents of all time. His songs fit effortlessly under the soul umbrella...listen to his voice for god's sake....i've witnessed this song reduce grown men to a puddle of tears. Sadly Otis was never meant for this world...he died in a plane crash at the age of 26. 26 and a voice like that....if I get one question when i'm standing in front of the Grand Scheme Being it will be "Why did you take Otis Redding so soon? Why?"
8. The Emotions - "Best Of My Love"
Whoa I almost got lost and forgot about this list...thinking about Otis Redding, went on a little journey there. I need to bring it back. Here's The Emotions with a song to lift our spirits. Three sisters from Chicago with a flare for soul and r&b.
9. The Chi-Lites - "Oh Girl"
Though Motown is short for 'Motor Town" meaning Detroit, Chicago produced it's fair share of soul and funk acts as well. Take The Chi-Lites who were considered one of the top ten R&B acts of the 60's and 70's with 11 top ten hits. They demonstrate their abilities perfectly here, even just the way those 2 words are sung. "Oh Girl". Classic.
10. Al Green - "Let's Stay Together"
From the first moments of this song you know you're in for something special. Al Green has a distinct ability to rope you in with his velvet voice and curious delivery. Always makes first time listeners take notice and old fans coming back for more. This song is a favourite at weddings and anniversary parties. One of the greatest love songs of all time.