To me this was the prettiest song that ever came out of “Motown”.
It is also the song that always brings me to tears for longing for the Detroit that was once upon a time. Because for my generation these artists who wrote and performed the soundtracks of our youths regardless of nationality or skin color became heroes to us.
The hell that all broke loose from it in 67′ was from the previous ignorant generations doings. For the most of us boomers who sang, danced and lived these songs on the streets of the neighborhoods we grew up in, we simply saw and heard their true talent.
The day Levi Stubbs died, I cried and I can’t ever remember doing that for any other Motown artist. To me he was the epitome of the Soul that defined what came out of Hitsville & Studio A on the Blvd. Paul Williams had that reign with the Temps.
But for me the National Anthem of Motown will always be “Baby I Need Your Loving” because it was ours, the Motor City’s. That is where most of us were born and raised and no matter where we ended up in life living whether still in the city’s limits or just outside of it, we’ll always be Detroiters. And we’ll say it with pride.
“Ask The Lonely” was the Tops third released single in 63′ and second consecutive hit that at that point the record company had.
It was written by Funk Brothers Ivy Jo Hunter and William “Mickey” Stevenson.
On this extended version you get to hear all almost individually being highlighted with that of the singers and all of the instrumentation. They can talk about the Phil Spector sound all they want. What we had here in Detroit was pure musical magic and no record company had the musicians in the way of The Funk Brothers. They put together a sound that would become recognizable throughout the world.
The Brits ate it up and were doing Motown songs as they came to the States during the British Invasion. Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow and Louvain Demps better known as The Andantes could have made it as a main group alone, but they would be kept as background singers featured on over 90% of all the Motown songs and hits.
Nobody had the genius of bass player James Jamerson who could have played the riffs in his sleep. Bass, Drums, Horns, Piano, Guitar, Beat and arrangements. That is what accompanied the voices. And the Detroit Symphony was also a big part of the muse used throughout the Motown Sound.
Certain songs come with certain memories for everyone. This one was no exception. This one had an even more powerful ones for me.
For the times, the place I was at, family, friends and a singer who lead this group who I had the chance to see being brought out on stage without one dry eye in the place in 2005. Sadly it was just with-in weeks of Obie’s passing so the tears were for both sadness and joy. Happy because we felt blessed to have been able to shout out I love you to Levi for all that he had given us throughout our lives.
The talent of all of them who brought us such happiness with all of the songs that they left with us. For only they leave us, what they made in that studio and put down on that vinyl is ours until the end of time. And that can never die.
So I share with you my favorite male Motown group and a song that was sung with such conviction that the lead singer could make you cry. The words and sound that powerful….
“When It Was Music”.
Levi Stubbs – lead vocals
Obie Benson – vocals
Lawrence Payton – vocals
Duke Farkir – vocals
The Andantes (Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow and Louvain Demps) – background vocals
The Funk Brothers – music
Detroit Symphony – strings