In today's special SWEET 16 Feature we'll count down the 16 Biggest Motown Hits, 1960 - 1985. Songs are ranked by their overall chart performance at the time of their original release ... but ALL are Motown Standards.
#16 - AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH - Diana Ross (1970)
#15 - BEING WITH YOU - Smokey Robinson (1981)
#14 - WHERE DID OUR LOVE GO - The Supremes (1964)
#13 - WAR - Edwin Starr (1970)
#12 - ABC - The Jackson Five (1970)
#11 - I JUST CALLED TO SAY I LOVE YOU - Stevie Wonder (1984)
#10 - HELLO - Lionel Richie (1984)
#9 - LOVE CHILD - Diana Ross and the Supremes (1968)
#8 - SAY YOU, SAY ME - Lionel Richie (1985)
#7 - LET'S GET IT ON - Marvin Gaye (1973)
#6 - THREE TIMES A LADY - The Commodores (1978)
#5 - UPSIDE DOWN - Diana Ross (1980)
#4 - ALL NIGHT LONG - Lionel Richie (1983)
#3 - I'LL BE THERE - The Jackson Five (1970)
#2 - I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE - Marvin Gaye (1969)
#1 - ENDLESS LOVE - Diana Ross and Lionel Richie (1981)
Not quite the list you were expecting? I have to admit I was a little surprised by the final results as well.
When I think of Motown, I think of the '60's ... HUGE groups like The Supremes, The Temptations (who didn't even make this list), The Four Tops (ditto), Stevie Wonder (only his 1984 hit "I Just Called To Say I Love You" qualified) ... as well as timeless tracks like "Dancin' In The Street", "Do You Love Me", "I Can't Help Myself", "Baby Love", "My Girl", "Just My Imagination", "My Guy", "Please Mr. Postman" and such.
But when you do a point-for-point evaluation, you find that everything is not as it seemed.
Lionel Richie's got his hand in FIVE of The Top 16 Motown Hits ... a full third! Diana Ross outranks her fellow Supremes (who had an incredible THIRTEEN #1 National Hits, including a string of five in a row back in 1964/1965) with three of her solo hits to two Supremes tracks (which means she ALSO occupies a full third of this list!)
Only three songs in the countdown pre-date 1970 ... two of those are by The Supremes and the other one is Marvin Gaye's HUGE hit "I Heard It Through The Grapevine".
Now if I only took The 16 Biggest Motown Hits of the '60's, you'd find a far different picture:
#16 - I Heard It Through The Grapevine - Gladys Knight and the Pips (1967)
#15 - I Hear A Symphony - The Supremes (1965)
#14 - Please Mr. Postman - The Marvelettes (1961)
#13 - I Can't Get Next To You - The Temptations (1969)
#12 - Reach Out, I'll Be There - The Four Tops (1966)
#11 - You Can't Hurry Love - The Supremes (1966)
#10 - My Guy - Mary Wells
#9 - Someday We'll Be Together - Diana Ross and the
#8 - Stop! In The Name Of Love - The Supremes (1965)
#7 - Come See About Me - The Supremes (1964)
#6 - Fingertips Part 2 - Little Stevie Wonder (1963)
#5 - Baby Love - The Supremes (1964)
#4 - I Can't Help Myself - The Four Tops (1965)
#3 - Where Did Our Love Go - The Supremes (1964)
#2 - Love Child - Diana Ross and the Supremes (1968)
#1 - I Heard It Through The Grapevine - Marvin Gaye (1969)
In this scenario "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" book-ends the countdown ... and The Supremes account for EIGHT of The Top 16 Motown Hits (that's HALF the countdown!!!) And there are STILL so many GREAT Motown hits that fail to make the list.
Thanks to the way radio is programmed today, we all come away with a very distorted perspective of rock and roll history. Based on airplay alone over the past twenty years, Marvin Gaye's version of "Grapevine" would probably be followed by "My Girl" by The Temptations (not on EITHER list!), "Baby Love", "My Guy", "Dancin' In The Street" (also not on either list) and "For Once In My Life" ... but Our Sweet 16 Countdown shows the way things REALLY went down at the time!