Lessons from MotownWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
A recent visit to the Motown Museum and recording studios has led to a happy immersion in the music from that movement’s glory days. My car speakers and earbuds are thrumming with the sounds of The Marvelettes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, The Temptations and several other artists.
Naturally, I have been excited to share this music with my sons, Evan and Sean, who are nearing their seventh and fifth birthdays. I am playing the upbeat, fun songs such as “ABC” by The Jackson 5, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by The Four Tops and “The Way You Do The Things You Do” by The Temptations.
I was discussing this with a friend who gently admonished me, saying I should still play “educational” songs for the boys, things from Elmo and The Wiggles and their ilk.
“Pop music isn’t going to teach them anything,” he said.
I strenuously disagree.
In addition to the joy of creating and sharing the finer emotions evoked by music, many of the greatest songs, specifically Motown songs, contain encapsulated life lessons that run the gamut from appreciating peace, love and understanding to the horrors of war. My boys aren’t ready for all of these lessons, but then, who amongst us is?
So, thanks to such writers as Wonder, Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong, Berry Gordy, Harvey Fuqua, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland, Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson and scores of others artists, here is a tiny slice of “Everything I need to know about life I learned from Motown.”
- “Before you take a girl and say I do now/Make sure she’s in love with you now/My mama told me/You better shop around”
- “I don’t like you, but I love you/Seems like I’m always thinking of you/Though you treat me badly, I love you madly/You really got a hold on me”
- “Has high blood pressure got a hold on me, or is this the way love’s supposed to be?”
- “I don’t need no money, fortune, or fame/I’ve got all the riches baby one man can claim/I guess you’d say, what can make me feel this way?/My girl …”
- “It doesn’t matter what you wear, just as long as you are there/So come on every guy, grab a girl/Everywhere, around the world”
- “I heard a cryin’ man/Is half a man, with no sense of pride/But if I have to cry to keep you/I don’t mind weepin’ if it’ll keep you by my side”
- “You can’t hurry love/No, you just have to wait/You got to trust, give it time/No matter how long it takes”
- “Now show me a girl, a girl that’s fine/And I’ll choose the one with true lovin’ every time/I know that beauty’s only skin deep”
- “People say believe half of what you see, Son, and none of what you hear”
- “When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer/Superstition ain’t the way”
- “This love we’re contemplatin’/Is worth the pain of waitin’/We’ll only end up hatin’/The child we may be creatin’”
- “As I walk this land of broken dreams/I have visions of many things/Love’s happiness is just an illusion/Filled with sadness and confusion/What becomes of the brokenhearted/Who had love that’s now departed?”
- “Reading and writing, arithmetic/Are the branches of the learning tree/But without the roots of love every day, girl/Your education ain’t complete”
- “If you see an old friend on the street, and he’s down/Remember his shoes could fit your feet/Why don’t you reach out and touch somebody’s hand/Make this world a better place, if you can”
- “Air pollution, revolution, gun control/Sound of soul/Shootin’ rockets to the moon/Kids growin’ up too soon/Politicians say more taxes will solve everything/Ball of Confusion, that’s what the world is today”
- “War! Good God, y’all, what is it good for?/Absolutely nothin’”
- “We don’t need to escalate/You see, war is not the answer/For only love can conquer hate/You know we’ve got to find a way/To bring some lovin’ here today”
- “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand/With an equal opportunity, for all to sing, dance and clap their hands/But just because a record has a groove, don’t make it in the groove”
- “Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east/Oil wasted on the ocean and upon our seas, fish full of mercury/Radiation underground and in the sky/Animals and birds who live nearby are dying/Oh mercy, mercy me/Things ain’t what they used to be/What about this overcrowded land/How much more abuse from man can she stand?”
- “I’m telling you beware, beware of the handshake/That hides the snake/Beware of that pat on the back/It just might hold you back/Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes/They don’t tell the truth”
- “Money, we make it/Before we see it, you take it/Inflation, no chance/To increase finance”
- “Hey Mama, folk say that Papa was never much on thinking/Spent most of his time chasing women and drinking/Mama, I’m depending on you to tell me the truth/Mama looked up with a tear in her eye and said, ‘Son, Papa was a rolling stone/Wherever he laid his hat was his home/And when he died, all he left us was alone’”
- “Don’t you know how sweet and wonderful life can be/I’m askin’ you baby, to get it on with me/I ain’t gonna worry, I ain’t gonna push/So come on, come on, come on, come on baby/Stop beatin’ round the bush”
- “We are amazed but not amused/By all the things you say that you’ll do/We’re much concerned but not involved/With decisions that are made by you/But we are sick and tired of hearing your song/Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong/’Cause if you really want to hear our views/You haven’t done nothing!”
- “I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow/And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow/This place is cruel, nowhere could be much colder/If we don’t change the world will soon be over/Living just enough, just enough for the city”
- “Now there’s some sad things known to man/But ain’t too much sadder than/The tears of a clown, when there’s no one around”
- “Is her sweet expression/Worth more than my love and affection?”
- “I know flowers grow through rain/But how can love grow through pain?”
- “Now if you feel that you can’t go on/Because all of your hope is gone/And your life is filled with much confusion/Until happiness is just an illusion/Come on reach on out for me/I’ll be there with a love that will shelter you/I’ll be there with a love that will see you through”
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Barrett Strong, Berry Gordy, Brian Holland, Eddie Holland, Harvey Fuqua, Lamont Dozier, Lighting The Fuse, Martha Reeves, Marvin Gaye, Michael S. Miller, Nickolas Ashford, Norman Whitfield, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, The Jackson 5, The Marvelettes, The Temptations, Valerie Simpson