Another way to measure the scope of influence accountable to the music produced by Motown Records in the 1960’s is to pay attention to how often its various forms were imitated. Motown itself feed on itself, developing so many styles to craft different personae for different artists. Realistically, there’s no singular “Motown Sound.” Decidedly diverse are the songs that the Women of Motown got their hands on.
The Marvelettes begot a number of “Popeye” beat Popcorn Soul records in the early 60’s. Notably Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time” is a direct copy of “Please Mr. Postman.” Then there’s the Mary Wells soundalikes traded either on the calypso beat of her first top 10 hits, or the lush production style of “My Guy.” Then there’s the amazing number of “Heatwave” soundalikes that borrow Martha & The Vandellas make-up, or the martial beat borrowed by many envious of The Supremes parade of #1 hits by the beginning of 1966.
The more refined the hit machine became, the more relentless Motown imitators got. Sometimes, the efforts knock Motown originals right out of the park (see in particular “Warning” by Pat Lewis). As the influence of girl groups and female soul artists waned in the late 60’s as the mantle of Soul Sister molded more towards the Aretha Spectrum, the classic tributes to Motowns old and new became less numerous, but none less delightful.
Assembled for you are a smattering of songs that prove imitation is the finest form of flattery. Some of these records hail from rival Detroit labels, a number from New York and Philly, even some from as far away as Los Angeles and London. Some of them were actual chart hits, but there’s a healthy dose of obscurities as well. Some of them you can literally point to the exact Motown song it imitates, others are a little less on the nose. More often than not, they take themes and motifs recognizable as elements of the Motown sound, and add their own special blend of brilliance.
Motown opened the hearts, souls, and studios nationwide with duplicate sounds of young America. May these tunes delight you as we begin anew this Spring.
1) Tobi Lark – I’ll Steal Your Heart Away (1964)
2) Rose Batiste – I Can’t Leave You (1964)
3) The Dorelles – The Beating Of My Heart (1963)
4) Patty & The Emblems – Showdown (1964)
5) The Adorables – Deep Freeze (1964)
6) Gerri Granger – Breakdown (1964)
7) Geraldine Hunt – (A Big Lie) Two Can Live Cheaper Than One (1964)
8) Barbara Lee – My, My Sweet Love (1964)
9) Liz Verdi – You Let Him Get Away (1964)
10) Peggy March – Watch What You Do With My Baby (1964)
11) Leslie Duncan – See That Guy (1965)
12) Ruby & The Romantics – Baby Come Home (1964)
13) The Honey Bees – She Don’t Deserve You (1964)
14) The Wonderettes – I Feel Strange (1965)
15) Joan Moody – Don’t Do Me That Way (1966)
16) Jackie Ross – Trust In Me (1965)
17) The Orlons – Don’t You Want My Lovin’ (1965)
18) The Toys – Can’t Get Enough Of You, Baby (1966)
19) The Shangri-Las – Right Now And Not Later, Baby (1965)
20) Roddie Joy – If There’s Anything Else You Want (1966)
21) The Sweethearts – No More Tears (1966)
22) The Chiffons – Stop, Look And Listen (1966)
23) Sandy Wynns (Edna Wright) – Love Belongs To Everyone (1965)
24) Lorraine Chandler – I Can’t Change (1967)
25) Cindy Scott – In Your Spare Time (1967)
26) Witches And The Warlock – Behind Locked Doors (1966)
27) The Lovables – You Can’t Dress Up A Broken Heart (1967)
28) Pat Lewis – Warning (1967)
29) LaVern Baker – I’m The One To Do It (1969)
30) Felice Taylor – Captured By Your Love (1968)
31) Nancy Wilson – Face It Girl, It’s Over (1968)
32) The De Vons – Someone To Treat Me (The Way You Used To) (1969)