Under The Covers: 33 Outsourced Covers From The Golden Age of Motown

Berry Gordy was slightly notorious for being adverse to seeking outside material for hit songs for his singers. Very rare during the Motown classic hit era were any of the major hits for artists from the pens of someone that wasn’t attached to the Motown Family.

I can only think of two off the top of my head that made the Pop Top 40: “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” from the team of Gamble & Huff, which had been a mild hit twice; once for Dee Dee Warwick and then Madeline Bell, and “When You’re Young & In Love” written by Van McCoy, which missed the Top 40 for Ruby & The Romantics 2 and half years before The Marvelettes had an international hit with the song.

65cb7ecf25a5100415c660208c261d1fGordy had been burned in terms of songwriting royalties in the late fifties, so he purposely kept his employees churning out new songs not only for potential singles, but for filler on LPs as well. It made it particularly rare that the roster of Motown singers had to step out of the catalog to fill out their long players, with plenty of popular and unused in-house songs to choose from.

However, every once in a while, be it a dance craze album, a tribute LP, something chock full of standards or mere expediency, an outsourced cover song made its way into the recording studio. Notably the practice was very rare before 1965, so the earlier covers were done by top flight acts. As the label expanded, and demands on the songwriters in-house grew (and two key component writing/production teams jumped ship in 1967), the more covers would fill in on LPs, and sometimes escape as singles for artists both big named and small.

So for fall cuffing season, we have 33 examples of how Motown loved some of the songs not created within the walls of Hitsville U.S.A. It’s really interesting to listen to where Motown adhered rather strictly to the arrangements of the original recordings that are famous, and those moments where they completely started fresh. I hope this is fresh for you.



1) The Miracles – Twist & Shout (The Isley Brothers)
2) The Supremes – Ain’t That Good News (Sam Cooke)
3) Marvin Gaye – Walk On The Wild Side (Brook Benton)
4) Mary Wells – I Only Have Eyes For You (The Flamingos)
5) The Marvelettes – Good Luck Charm (Elvis Presley)
6) Martha & The Vandellas – Can’t Get Used To Losing You (Andy Williams)
7) The Velvelettes – I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face (Baby Washington)
c1be5f3590a54e4b9ebfaf2fb7c703688) Brenda Holloway – Unchained Melody (Al Hibbler)
9) Tammi Terrell – That’s What Boys Are Made For (The Spinners)
10) Martha & The Vandellas – Hey There Lonely Boy (Ruby & The Romantics)
11) The Supremes – Our Day Will Come (Ruby & The Romantics)
12) Jimmy Ruffin – Bless You (Tony Orlando)
13) Marvin Gaye – There Goes My Baby (The Drifters)
14) Gladys Knight & The Pips – Going Out Of My Head (Little Anthony & The Imperials)
15) The Miracles – You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me (Dusty Springfield)
16) Barbara McNair – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (The Righteous Brothers)
17) The Temptations – Hey Girl (Freddie Scott)
18) The Isley Brothers – Whispers Getting Louder (Jackie Wilson)
19) Stevie Wonder – Mr. Tambourine Man (The Byrds)
20) The Monitors – Poor Side Of Town (Johnny Rivers)
21) The Originals – Since I Fell For You (Lenny Welch)
22) Barbara Randolph – The Look Of Love (Dusty Springfield)
23) Diana Ross & The Supremes – Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You (Frankie Valli)
24) The Four Tops – Cherish (The Association)
25) The Marvelettes – Uptown (The Crystals)
26) Rita Wright – Save The Country (The Fifth Dimension)
27) The Spinners – O-o-h Child (The Five Stairsteps)
28) Chris Clark – Spinning Wheel (Blood, Sweat & Tears)
29) Chuck Jackson – The Chokin’ Kind (Joe Simon)
30) Blinky – Rescue Me – (Fontella Bass)
31) The Elgins – The Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett)
32) Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – I Say A Little Prayer (Dionne Warwick)
33) The Supremes – A Lover’s Concerto (The Toys)



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