A few of Motown’s one-hit wonders

June 24, 2020 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism.

When I asked for suggestions about where (if anywhere) to take the Motown series, my friend Steve W. had a good suggestion: what about the one-hit wonders — the songs that were hits but we never heard from the artist again.

Grab your favorite search engine and ask for Motown’s one-hit wonders, and you will find plenty of lists and plenty of opinions. It’s a lot of fun to look at the lists and to compare them with your own, or to try to remember what songs they are talking about. I will offer up three songs that I’m confident you’ll remember even if you can’t recall the artist.

“What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin. The older brother of the Temptations lead singer David Ruffin during the group’s classic period, Jimmy Ruffin took a song originally written for the Spinners and made it a break-through hit. The song reached number 7 on the pop charts.

Along with his brother, Ruffin was raised in Mississippi and grew up singing deep-throated gospel music. When a spot opened up on the Temptations, Jimmy got the offer to fill it — an offer that was rescinded when they heard his bother sing. Jimmy had some success as a solo artist but never reached the heights of “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted.”

“Do You Love Me?” by the Contours. This song was originally meant for the Temptations, but they happened to be out of town when the time came to record it. It was then handed off to the Contours. The year was 1962, and by then this group of Detroit natives had been singing together for three years. They first came together as The Blenders.

The song made it to number 1 on the R&B chart and number 3 on the Hot 100 chart, and it eventually sold more than a million copies. The Contours continued to record through the 1960s, but they never had a record that came close to the success of “Do You Love Me?”

“Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong. The reason you may remember this song is not because of the Barrett Strong recording but because the Beatles also recorded it and put it on one of their albums.

The song was co-written by Motown founder Barry Gordy and release in 1959, making it one of the very first of Motown’s hit records. Strong himself was more interested in becoming a songwriter than a recording artist, and he turned his attention to that. As such, he contributed to several of The Temptations biggest hits.

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