Motown Monday September, 1970

motownBy Bob Berry

Next time someone asks “what were the two Number One Songs of September, 1970?”, give ’em the answer they least expect.

It wasn’t a song by The Beatles, nor the Guess Who, Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel or Smokey Robinson and the Miracles; all of whom had at least one #1 in 1970! And it wasn’t The Jackson Five, who had four consecutive Number One’s that year.

It was two of Detroit’s and Motown’s greatest artists: Edwin Starr and Diana Ross!

Edwin was first, Number One for three weeks (8/29-9/12) with his scorching version of the Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong Vietnam-era protest song, “War“. A song that was a much more mellow tune on The Temptations 1970 LP Psychedelic Shack, Edwin sang it with a fury  that reflected the times like few records ever have.

Diana Ross picked up where Edwin left off, and also went to Number One for three weeks (9/19-10/3)! Ironically, Diana’s song was also a cover, of  Ashford and Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough“. With spoken word, soaring strings from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and an amazing vocal, the song was a remarkable re-imagining of the original hit by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

A Postscript. Motown Records had an amazing year in 1970, with a total of eighteen weeks at Number One! . The “big dog” was The J5’s 10 total weeks on the chart-including five weeks for “I’ll Be There”. Smokey and The Miracles’ “Tears Of A Clown” was #1 for 2 weeks, a plus three weeks each for Edwin and Diana.

Makes you wonder, like so many of the Funk Brothers (and others) have noted.  What might have been, what could have been; if Berry Gordy not moved Motown to Los Angeles.

Sep 21st, 2015 | Posted in Bob Berry, Keener
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