The editors of Rolling Stone have done us Motown aficionados a solid favor by identifying the top 100 — that’s right, a cool hundred — Motown hits and tell us some of the stories behind the music.
You know the list is a good one when the 100th song on the list is “Shop Around” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. This is what RS had to say about “Shop Around”:
If you want to hear how Berry Gordy fine-tuned Detroit R&B for wider (and whiter) pop appeal without watering it down, compare the two versions the Miracles recorded of this 1960 Smokey Robinson classic. A few days after the first was released locally, Gordy second-guessed himself — “too slow, not enough life,” he grumbled — and he brought everyone back to record the peppier version that became Motown’s first million-seller. A Number One R&B hit, “Shop Around” was only kept out of the Number One slot on the pop charts by Lawrence Welk. —K.H. Source: Best Motown Songs: Supremes, Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson – Rolling Stone
They also provide soundtracks for all the songs.
The magazine has the song divided up into 10 each per page, and that lets you skip to their top choices immediately. I confess that’s what I did, but I won’t steal the magazine’s thunder by revealing any of the top 10.
Here are a few of their choices:
99. Martha and the Vandellas, “Jimmy Mack” (1966)
88. The Four Tops, “It’s the Same Old Song” (1965)
77. Brenda Holloway, “Every Little Bit Hurts” (1964)
66. Marvin Gaye, “I Want You” (1976)
55. The Temptations, “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” (1971)
44. Gladys Knight and the Pips, “If I Were Your Woman” (1970)
33. The Commodores, “Nightshift” (1985)
22. Marvin Gaye, “Got to Give It Up” (1977)
11. Marvin Gaye, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1968)
I’ll let you take it from there.
If I had to pick a number one favorite, I don’t think I could do it. Still, I have a lot of affection for The Marvelettes (above) “Please, Mr. Postman,” (1961), which comes in at 19 on the Rolling Stone list.
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