Make Black History Personal: #11 The Heart and Soul of a Motown Girl

I’ll never forget the first day I really became aware of Motown. It was in the fall of 1964 and my favorite cousin, Gloria was over to babysit us while my parents were out.

To my 13-year-old self, Gloria was one of the coolest people I knew. She was in high school, pretty, always dressed sharp and better yet – she brought the latest records whenever she came by. On this day, she brought a new record from a group I’d never heard of –

The Supremes.

The record was “Baby Love” and it hit the top charts around the world – and in my world. From that point on, I was hooked on the Motown sound.

Baby Love

Over the years, Motown became more than just music to us. We went to elementary school with the kids of Motown’s founder, Barry Gordy. The Supremes all moved on the next street – Mary lived on the next corner, Diana down a block and Florence in the next. My friends and I would “casually” stroll past their houses hoping to get a glimpse of our favorite divas. Later our family would live across the street from Lamont Dozier of Holland Dozier Holland who wrote “Baby Love” and a host of other Motown hits.

One place where we got to see the Motown groups perform was at the Michigan State Fair. Even though these stars were starting to get booked into clubs and big venues during the 1960s, they often played at the fairgrounds where young kids like me could see them.

In those days, I was lucky to have a policeman uncle who did security at the band shell where the stars performed. Uncle Byron would somehow get us backstage where there were trailers for the singers to hang out in between shows.

One summer, the Temptations were performing at the fair and I was stationed outside one of the trailers hoping for a glimpse of one of the “Temps”, as we called them. My patience paid off as a door opened and my favorite – lead singer, David Ruffin stepped out. He had a girl on each arm – I remember their beehive hairdos and make-up to my simple ponytail and blue cat-eye glasses.

My prayers were answered, though, when David Ruffin stopped for the briefest moment and gave ME a smile that made my teen-age knees tremble. And in the next minute, he was gone.

But by the time he was on stage with the rest of the Temps singing their hit – “My Girl”, I could almost pretend he was singing it to me. (If you don’t know who he is, David’s the fine one in the glasses.)

My Girl

As I write this, it’s hard to limit the number of videos I’d love to post of my many Motown favorites. But if I had to pick the one group I’ve been in consistently in love with ever since I discovered Motown 50 years ago, it would be The Four Tops.

I can still put on their tunes and marvel at their incredibly soulful vibe. And because it’s impossible to choose between them, here are two of my all-time favorites –

It’s the Same Old Song

And this is the song that will always live in my music library. I heard it for the first time when I was a freshman at Fisk and probably listened to it 500 times that year alone  –

Still Waters Run Deep

Over the years, I discovered and loved the music of other artists and developed a fairly eclectic taste in music. But when the rubber meets the road, I won’t lie to you –

I will always have the heart and soul of a Motown girl.

How can you make Black history personal? 

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