Motown Classics Library (Themes and Musical Concepts)

MOTOWN CLASSICS LIBRARY

(to be used alongside our Listening to Music post with key listening questions.

 

What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye)

– Themes

  • Inspired by police brutality incident, riots and the Vietnam War
  • Questioning
  • Fine line between a ‘protest song’ and a ‘love song’

– Key musical concepts

  • Open sounding Bridge section with no lyrics…longer than expected.
  • Free and wandering bass line (played by James Jamerson)
  • Strings (high budget recording)

 

I’ll Be There (Jackson 5)

– Themes

  • Friendship
  • Reaching out
  • (One-sided) love song

– Key musical concepts

  • Different feel + key change for choruses and verses
  • Clavinet (keyboard instrument) used (unusually for this time)
  • Young vocal lead

 

Respect (Aretha Franklin)

– Themes

  • Female emancipation
  • Strong female voice from the very first syllable
  • Powerful message

– Key musical concepts

  • Main chord sequence uses harmony stolen from Blues genre
  • Bridge with no vocals (sax solo)
  • Whole band stops for ‘R E S P E C T’, to help hammer home message

  

Ain’t no mountain (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)

– Themes

  • Love song – however there is very little use of the word ‘love’
  • Painting pictures with language to set the scene and express message
  • Movement (musically and also physically expressing the desire to move)

– Key musical concepts

  • Duet
  • Big budget (pop orchestra i.e. strings and brass) and music video
  • Shape of James Jamerson’s bass line in verses = painting mountains?

 

Uptight (Everything’s Alright) (Stevie Wonder)

– Themes

  • Feeling like you have everything even though you own nothing
  • The coming together of two different cultures
  • Story-telling

– Key musical concepts

  • Tambourine!
  • Static bass line over oscillating chords
  • Strong horn riff

 

You Can’t Hurry Love (The Supremes)

– Themes

  • Advice song
  • You have to work at love, it doesn’t come easily
  • Fun and upbeat, but with a feeling of desperation (it’s a fairly hurried tempo!)

– Key musical concepts

  • Tambourine
  • Syncopated bass line = dance machine!
  • Building pre-chorus

 

I heard it through the grapevine (Marvin Gaye)

– Themes

  • Hearing some news (…you probably weren’t meant to hear!)
  • Expressing your emotions
  • Raw emotions (“when I found out yesterday”)

– Key musical concepts

  • Minor key
  • Simple chords (on Wurlitzer electric piano)
  • Instruments all enter quickly one after the other – packed with emotion

 

My Girl (The Temptations)

– Themes

  • Simple message – love song
  • Upbeat
  • Inviting the listener in with questions (pre-chorus)

– Key musical concepts

  • Each instrumental layer comes in clearly after the other
  • Major key – and key change
  • Backing vocals repeating the main theme

 

My Guy (Mary Wells)

– Themes

  • Simple message – love song
  • Lyrics filled with everyday phrases
  • Upbeat, positive feel

– Key musical concepts

  • Backing vocals repeating the main theme
  • Major key
  • Swing feel – dance rhythm

 

Ain’t nothing like the real thing (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)

– Themes

  • Picture/human comparison
  • Duet = singing from different positions / mirror / theatre
  • Descriptive love song

– Key musical concepts

  • String section
  • Tambourine
  • Duet

 

Heat Wave (Martha and the Vandellas)

– Themes

  • Love song based on simile
  • The feeling of love – described in a variety of ways
  • Upbeat dance song

– Key musical concepts

  • Piano and baritone sax
  • Backing vocals present through-out
  • Swing/jive upbeat feel and major key