Hard to believe now, but Motown resisted releasing this song as a single. Marvin’s version sat on a shelf for months before being relegated to an album track– until some DJ’s discovered it, and the rest is history. It became Motown’s biggest selling hit at that time. And it’s a true classic. In this episode, we’ll look at how the track was put together and marvel at Marvin’s performance. One of the greats.

“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong) Copyright 1966 Jobette Music Co, Inc., BMI

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Earth, Wind & Fire’s 6th album, That’s The Way of The World, was ostensibly a soundtrack album; when the film bombed, the album was on the verge of fading away, too– until “Shining Star” was released as a single and it became their first (and surprisingly only) #1 Top 10 Hit. The whole band is on fire here; beneath the pop sheen is the heaviest of funk grooves, with particularly tasty guitar & bass work. Let’s climb inside this funk machine & see what it took to create this stellar track.

Earth Wind & Fire – “Shining Star” (Maurice White, Philip Bailey and Larry Dunn) Copyright 1975 (Renewed 2003) EMI April Music Inc. 

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“War” was originally written for The Temptations, but when Motown was too squeamish to have one of their top acts release an overtly anti-Vietnam song, Edwin Starr stepped up and secured his place in history. His no-holds-barred delivery of “War” resulted in one of the most commercially successful protest songs ever recorded. Though Edwin Starr never reached these heights again, he left his mark with a song that transcended its Vietnam-era roots: It was one of the songs on Clear Channel’s no-play list after September 11, 2001.

“War” (Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong) Copyright 1970 Jobette Music Co, Inc.

The Temptations’ first #1 Hit on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart was “My Girl” in 1965. 4 years later, they had their 2nd #1 with “I Can’t Get Next To You”, and the difference between these 2 songs tells you a lot about the 1960’s. “I Can’t Get Next To You” features a different lead vocalist, a more aggressive, funky beat and a trippy vibe courtesy of producer & songwriter Norman Whitfield. The early Temptations songs are great, but for my money, they were never better than when they teamed up with Whitfield and created “psychedelic soul”. Let’s listen to each piece of the puzzle that created this masterpiece.

“I Can’t Get Next To You” (Barret Strong & Norman Whitfield) Copyright 1969 Jobette Music Co., Inc. All rights controlled and administered by EMI Blackwood Music Inc. on behalf of Stone Agate Music (A division of Jobette Music Co., Inc.)

Stevie Wonder was on an unrivaled creative streak starting in 1972, releasing 5 brilliant albums in a row, culminating with Songs In The Key Of Life in 1976. That album spawned 2 hit singles, including “I Wish”, the subject of this episode.  A masterpiece blending funk with pop sensibilities, it’s a celebration of youthful innocence and simpler times.  How does this song make *you* feel?  Let me know on Facebook, write a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to this show.  And share it with your friends!

“I Wish” (Stevie Wonder) Copyright 1976 Jobette Music Co. Inc, and Black Bull Music c/o EMI April Music Inc.

His career spanned over 60 years; he toured around the world (playing 200 shows a year, well into his 70’s), and released more than 50 albums.  But B.B. King will be remembered primarily as one of the most influential guitarists in history.  His impact is so embedded in the DNA of the guitar that no player is untouched by his influence.

This is one of many great songs in his vast catalog; a great example of his powerful voice, his ability to embody a song, and his mastery as a guitar soloist.

“There Must Be A Better World Somewhere” (Doc Pomus & Dr. John) Copyright 1981 Daremolby Music/Stazybo Music, Inc. (BMI)

Aretha Franklin recorded over 40 albums during her career; this episode, we revisit a song from her breakthrough album, “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” from 1967. This was actually her 11th album (!), but it was the first one recorded for Atlantic Records and it’s the one that made her a legend. Aretha Franklin was probably the single most influential singer of our time– just listen to any episode of American Idol for proof.

Aretha was not only a great vocalist, she was one of the greatest interpreters of songs in history. She didn’t just cover a song, she made it her own. “A Change Is Gonna Come” was Sam Cooke’s finest moment, but Aretha strips it down to its purest form and imbues it with pain, world-weariness, and hope – one of the greatest emotionally cathartic moments on record.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” (Sam Cooke) Copyright Kags, BMI

When a great soul singer meets a song by one of the great pop songwriting teams, magic ensues.  Al Green takes a song by the Bee Gees and turns it into one of the classic singles of all time.  Let’s nurse our broken hearts together as we dig into this amazing song.  Please take a minute to share this podcast, and thanks for spreading the word!

“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” (Barry Gibb & Robin Gibb) Copyright 1971 Gibb Brothers Music