There is no conceivable way to reduce the Motown catalog down to just 5 songs and have that mean anything. Not a best list, not a favorites, either.
So here are 5 Motown songs that I would like to share, right now.
5. “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 (1969)
If I made a fav 5 list of the Jackson brothers this wouldn’t be my top, but it would be in the list. That might seem like a lukewarm endorsement, but this is one of those song’s I never get tired of hearing (and signing along with).
4. “Tracks of My Tears” by The Miracles (1965)
Smokey Robinson was a big part of the Motown greatness. This is right up there with some of his greatest greatness.
3. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (1967)
These two had a string of hits, none more glorious than this 1967 hit.
2. “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations (1972)
These legends of Motown were hesitant to record this song, thinking it might be too reflective of the larger societial perceptions of African Americans and “broken households.” I’m glad they thought that, if the story is true, as I am glad they ended up recording the song. This is the super long version, with a lot more instrumental interludes.
1. “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” by the Four Tops (1966)
A simple love song is really a careful anthem of solidarity during the height of the civil rights era. It’s a beautiful arrangement, backed by some of the best vocal work from this group of legendary vocal workers.