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Motown To Celebrate 50th Anniversary With Fan-Picked Motown 50 Fanthology

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Motown, one of the legendary record labels of America's musical past, is celebrating their 50th anniversary and they're asking their fans to help them. Greatest hits packages, retrospectives, and anthologies seem to clog store shelves for every major and minor artist (except AC/DC, who stubbornly refuse to have one). These sets aren't inherently good or bad. Some are lovingly compiled and presented with care and thought while others are cheap knockoffs created to turn a fast profit. Motown's artists and the label itself are no stranger to the anthology, but in honor of their 50th anniversary they've come up with something special.

The Motown 50 Fanthology will feature 50 songs from the label's amazing archives and as the title suggests, this is an anthology for the fans, by the fans. No, Motown doesn't want you to get out your camcorder and submit YouTube videos of you slaughtering Motown classics. They're giving you the chance to decide which 50 songs are going to be on this set. The voting starts now and runs through July 15.

Fans will get the chance to choose their five favorite songs by going to the Motown 50 Vote! website. When the votes are tabulated, the top 50 will be determined and that's how they'll be sequenced — #1 through #50 — on the Fanthology when it is released September 1, 2009.

The hard part is going to be narrowing it down to just five songs. I'm not a Motown guy, myself, but these are some of the most famous, beloved, important, and vital songs in American music history. Nobody doesn't like at least five of these songs.

I could probably pick five of Marvin Gaye's songs alone. Right off the top of my head you've got "What's Goin' On," "Let's Get It On," and "I Heard It Through The Grapevine." There's Rick James' "Superfreak," which became popular again through MC Hammer and Dave Chappelle. There's also Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," which might be the funkiest thing I've heard in my life. There's The Temptation's "My Girl," which is one of those songs everybody knows. There's The Commodores "Brick House," which has become one of the great party anthems and The Jackson 5's countless great hits back when Michael Jackson was famous for being a singer. There's Diana Ross' solo career and the classics with The Supremes. Classic ballads, the soul-stirring soul numbers, the great pop songs, and all the dance and party anthems — I sound like I'm doing an infomercial for this set, don't I?

So in case you're curious, yes, I voted. There are over 100 songs listed to choose from. I could only pick five and it was tough. Here was my ballot: 1) Marvin Gaye – "What's Going On"2) Marvin Gaye – "Lets Get It On"3) The Temptations – "My Girl"4) Stevie Wonder – "Superstition"5) Jackson 5 – "I Want You Back."

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About Josh Hathaway

  • You’re right, that was hard. Of course, they could’ve made it a bit easier by getting rid of those DeBarge tracks. It’s supposed to be classic Motown. Or at least good music. “Rhythm of the Night” is neither.

    Anyway, here’s my ballot:

    1) Marvin Gaye – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine
    2) Stevie Wonder – “My Cherie Amour”
    3) The Supremes – “I Hear A Symphony”
    4) Four Tops – “Baby, I Need Your Loving”
    5) Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: “Tears of a Clown

  • And for the heck of it — I’m a massive fan of Motown — here’s my top 5 list of songs that weren’t offered as entries on the voting site:

    Marvin Gaye – “Can I Get A Witness”
    The Temptations – “I Wish It Would Rain”
    Martha & The Vandellas – “Nowhere To Run”
    Stevie Wonder – “I Don’t Know Why”
    The Jackson 5 – “Maybe Tomorrow”

  • Wow… it seems my comment didn’t make it through. Let me try again. First, thanks for playing along, Donald. You have some excellent selections yourself. “Grapevine” was my last one to get voted off. Ultimately I decided not to go three deep on Marvin Gaye just because. It was really, really tough limiting myself to just five.

    Martha & The Vandellas’ “Nowhere To Run” should have been on that list. That’s a great one.

  • Sure, I’ll play.

    “Mercy Mercy Me” Marvin Gaye
    “Baby, Baby Don’t Cry” Marvin Gaye
    “Love Child” Diana Ross/Supremes
    “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” Four Tops
    “I Was Made To Love Her” Stevie Wonder

    Snapshots in time, every one of them.


  • Oops, make that Smokey Robinson on “Baby Baby Don’t Cry”…


  • zingzing

    “my world is empty without you”
    “i want you back”
    “let’s get it on”
    “i’m coming out”

  • Diana Ross & The Supremes – I’m Living In Shame
    Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
    Edwin Starr – War
    Marvin Gaye – Inner City Blues
    The Temptations – Masterpiece
    The Temptations – Ball of Confusion

  • 50 songs just isn’t enough. There are some great choices here.

  • It feels a little ominous that I wrote about Michael Jackson being famous for being a singer in this article and a mere few hours later he was gone. Life is strange and so is death.

  • Only 5 Motown songs? Impossible. I am too neurotic to take part because the number of songs left off would eat away at me.

  • I’m plenty neurotic and I’m not even a devotee. I hated winnowing that list down to five but I really like the songs I chose. Gibson and Boyd had some good calls, too.

  • Five shmive. Just ignore the rules El B! Put as many as you like. I put 6. But that’s only because I ran out of time.

  • You neurotic guys need to learn to loosen up and live a little. 🙂

  • Oh, Cindy, you anarchist you. Here’s five that weren’t mentioned:

    “Do You Love Me” – The Contours
    “Dancing in the Street” – Martha & The Vandellas
    “(I Know) I’m Losing You” – The Temptations
    “For Once In My Life” – Stevie Wonder
    “My Guy” – Mary Wells

  • zingzing

    it says something that people can name individual favorites, and not a one of them is obscure. not that i’m saying they should be, but just that we can all get every one of these songs in our heads immediately has to mean something. (that being that motown had a shitload of good songs.)

    still, i must say i VASTLY prefer stax/atlantic (southern) style soul to motown. too slick. too urban. gimme something dirty from the sticks.

  • zingzing

    oh, and if you haven’t already, go check out the eccentric soul series on numero group. each one is from a different city (or a label) and features obscure 60s/70s soul and funk. usually a city (or label) has a particular sound, so it really brings each album together as a whole while highlighting stuff that’s been totally lost to the larger public.

  • Writing uninformed on the matter, it seems like Motown was more in the business of creating pop music by making R&B more palatable for white audiences at the time.

    Stax artists appear to have a little more diversity and originality in their sounds, and the audience came to them.

  • zingzing

    there is that, but i think it was also about creating a different sound than the southern soul of the time. something more urban and tight. which is what they did. their early stuff wasn’t quite as obviously poppy, but once they learned what was really selling, they went for it. (and made a lot of good music on the way.)