Motown and memory

Listening to Tom Petty’s Buried Treasure channel on Sirius XM yesterday I heard a Motown song I hadn’t heard since I was a teenager — “You Beat Me To the Punch,” a hit single for Mary Wells and a deep track on The Temptations Sing Smokey. The song was written by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ Ronnie White. I take it from Nelson George’s Where Did Our Love Go? that the track was produced by Smokey. Below is the Mary Wells album version (in stereo).

Below is the Temptations deep track, lead vocal by Paul Williams. The backing by the Motown studio musicians is characteristically excellent on both tracks. That has to be James Jamerson on the bass, active and melodic.

The tempered sweetness of the song is what struck me this week. It got me thinking about the work of the late Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, also for Motown. I saw them perform together live twice and they simply blew me away. The songs they wrote for Motown radiated sweetness and light. Their show was something like a tribute to marital passion. But that was another place and another time.

My stream of consciousness triggered by hearing the Mary Wells single this week led me to revisit what I had written about Ashford and Simpson on Power Line in years past. Finding something that was in an archived draft, I accidentally published it this morning and then immediately deleted it. If you saw some obsolete reference to them in a post that mysteriously disappeared, that’s why. I regret the error.

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