Appreciating all that makes America special

“Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas

"Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas,

Before he achieved star status on his own, Marvin Gaye wrote and played on songs by other artists - as he did with Dancing in the Street. Uploaded by

“Dancing in the Street” came out in 1964, right at the height of the British Invasion. The Beatles held number one from Feb. 1 of that year through May 8, and on the week of April 11 had 14 songs in the Top 100. Meanwhile, Motown was upholding American music with a revolution of its own, and one of its vanguard hits was this one, the signature song of Martha and the Vandellas.

Martha and the Vandellas,

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Because of the tumultuous social times that followed, “Dancing in the Street” was taken by some as a clarion call to riot in the streets. Black leader H. Rap Brown played it at his rallies, and journalists asked Martha Reeves if the song was a call to revolution. “My Lord, it’s a party song,” she replied. “It’s a song that makes you want to get  up and dance.”

Written by Marvin Gaye, Mickey Stevenson, and Ivy Jo Hunter, it had an infectious beat, aided by Marvin Gaye on drums – Gaye often played drums during Motown sessions. “Dancing” finished 1964 as the number 17 song of the year, and was ranked number 40 on the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone.

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