Hello and welcome to the Music Is My Life podcast from Berklee Online [MUSIC] I’m your host, Pat Healy Summer’s here and the time is right for taking time to appreciate the legendary Martha Reeves She of Dancing in the Streets fame, which I just paraphrased with the whole summer is here and the time is right thing Anyway, along with her backing singers, the Vandellas, she recorded other mega Motown hits including Jimmy Mack, Nowhere to Run, Love is Like a Heat Wave, Come and Get These Memories, so many hits Also, you need to check out the recently released Dancing in the Street digital single recorded on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965, that’s 55 years ago and that song is just as vital as it was then and there’s all these cool little different horn fills and stuff that aren’t on the original version that make it special Anyway, we speak a lot about the climate of social change then and now, the importance of having a teacher who believes in you, as well as Martha’s amazing career at Motown, which began with a misunderstood social appeal and an ability to adapt on the spot to a brand new beat, that would be the answering the phones beat Speaking of phones, that’s how we conducted this interview The audio will sound a little different than many of our episodes, but the heartfelt words of our conversation definitely translates through the receiver It all began for Martha Reeves in Eufaula, Alabama where her father would play guitar for the family Let’s let her tell you all about it From a very early age, all I remember, music that we had was my dad’s guitar When he wasn’t tired, he would take it down off the wall We were told explicitly not to touch dad’s guitar We learned the fear of daddy very early [LAUGHTER] We were told not to touch his guitar, but when he did take it down from the wall, he was so good at playing and singing He would just take us into just a wonderful place in our spirits, in our hearts, playing his guitar and singing the songs that he taught himself from a child in her early age That was the first music and mamma singing She always idolized Billie Holiday and some of the songs she sang are really deep in my heart because after working as hard as she did to help raise us, she and dad had a remarkable relationship They were married 47 years and married when they were 15 and 19 Both of them were singers and so it gave us an idea of how we can get through life happy, with music, with singing It was just in our house [LAUGHTER] Dad would listen to the radio, different shows, baseball games, and he would listen to Gabriel Heather, and he would listen to a lot of the shows that were on radio, that’s before TV That’s how my life started with music with my dad being the minister’s son, most of our music was secular, but he played the blues He played the blues just for us He did have music in the house, and that was the first music that I heard Later on, we were exposed to radio Do you sing every day now? Yes, I do. I sing scriptures because I prayed to be a singer from the as early as I can remember I always wanted to sound as good as my dad, or as good as my mom, or the other people that I saw sing and it touched me somewhere in my heart that I wanted to be a singer too I found out at the age of three that I could My brothers, Thomas and Benny had a group between the two of them We had to sing at our grandfather’s church at a amateur show They figured they’d encourage the children to come to church if they could make a contest to see who had talent and who would be in the choir, and whatever But we won the talent contest Benny and Tom let me sing with them We won candy, box of chocolate covered cherries I took over as if it was mine and record it If they didn’t treat me good or weren’t kind to me, I wouldn’t let them have any candy [LAUGHTER] I found out I was a little bossy at a very early age and they let me be a little bit bossy because I was favored I was the first girl of 11 of us Wow, 11? Yeah. I’ve had a dream to sound as good as mom and dad Feel this good about singing and be as good as my older brother Benny or my next older brother Thomas because they both had fabulous voices That’s probably why I tried so hard because I wanted to be as good as them By this point, were you in Detroit? You were born in the South, right? Born in Eufaula, Alabama, in USA, ULA they used to kid me about that, make little jokes, you fall I catch you thing kind of joke We moved to Detroit when I was 11 months old [inaudible] was the next child, he was born in Detroit

Benny, Thomas, and I were born in Alabama and brought to Detroit Then so you’re in Detroit, and you’re growing up, and you’re singing You’ve discovered through candy [LAUGHTER] that you have an act for it What were you singing in school also? Oh yeah, at every music class that I was in since I was favored In elementary school, [inaudible] she was a German lady, not very tall In fact, she was about the same height as all of the students. She favored me She found out that I could retain lyric as I had been taught by my mom She would speak to me at the end of the class She would have me stand before the class would end and sing some songs I could remember lyrics of the anthem The first song that I embraced was God Bless America The next song she taught me was This is my Country She taught us all of the anthems She taught a few love songs that she liked, like Only a Rose I could name all of the songs But her insistence on singling me out because I had the ability to remember lyrics, and I concentrated on everything she taught us She would favor me. The kids didn’t like me very much, but [LAUGHTER] I didn’t care that much about them because they weren’t kind But she was so lead and so wonderful Her eyes would light up when I did whatever she taught me correctly When I retained lyrics, she would have me sing them nearly everyday after class She would say, “Okay, Martha, come on and sing the song for me.” The keyboard player, he was there and and she would find out my right key and I don’t know They made a star out of me in elementary school In high school, I was in my 12th grade, Abraham Silva, who had taught me in glee club as well, in my four years of high school, singled me out of 11 girls in the soprano section and had me sing [inaudible] one was in a [inaudible] concert then at my graduation, then at the Henry Ford Auditorium, which was one of the [inaudible] acoustically built concert hall It then torn down As I stood there and watched them demolish it, my heart just broke I played before maybe 4,500 people A very difficult piece of music, but it was praising God alleluia, alleluia It was fabulous, and I was fitted with maybe a 50-member choir [inaudible] was this males soprano The male tenor lead part I, with my knees shaking pulled it off, I could make all of those beautiful notes and [inaudible] that Abraham Silva taught us at Northeastern High Schools I’ve been asked to sing most of my life and given the task of learning songs and being able to do them, that talent that was developed in elementary school and high school gave me the ability to go to Hitsville USA by request and take a position in the AMI department can learn songs from different writers, make a 100 demos, and finally, get my chance in the studio to record myself It’s been wonderful to have that presented Of course, I made the gut at a very early age to be able to sing I love that story about Mickey Stevenson discovering you at the 20 Grand Club What is it? He gave you his card and you just showed up the next day? Yeah. He gave me a card I was probably dreaming because I do have a great imagination [LAUGHTER]. When this good-looking man who was not much older than me, I was 21 and my dad gave me permission to sing in a nightclub I had won a prize at the happy hour, it was between 8:00 and 12:00 Dad let me sing there, but I had to be home and in the house by 12 o’clock I won an amateur contest as Martha [inaudible] singing solo The groups that I had been in had dissolved because we all needed to get jobs Right. That was the The Del-phis, is that right? The Fascinations were the first group Then I was invited to sing with a group called The Del-phis One of their members moved out of the city It with a four-person group, four girls, a female group and they asked me to sing in her stead It was a great experience However, when we all graduated high school, we all had to get jobs and the group after one recording on the Checkmate Label dissolved So as I was singing in this amateur contest and I won the prize as a three-day engagement at a place called the 20 Grand It was the biggest club here in the city of Detroit It is now defunct, but I had the chance to go during the happy hour and sing with the Levi Man Trio while I was doing my last evening at three nights for five dollars a night, imagine? I was making big time money He approached me with the crowd and said, “You have talents Come to Hitsville USA.” We had heard about Hitsville USA This is a company that a black man had started on the West side, I lived on the East side I did go there the next day without making an appointment I had no protocol

[LAUGHTER]. I had no idea I was supposed to take that call and call this A&R director from Hitsville, USA When I went home that evening and got in my house, by the time my dad expected me, I show them the card and told them that I had been asked to come to Hitsville, USA He gave me permission to quit my job I was living in my dad’s house at 21, and I worked at a clinic [inaudible] clinic was a city branch They had branches all over the city and I was able to go from one store to the next as this change of counter girl to check books In other words, I’d gone as far as I could possibly go in the cleaning business [LAUGHTER] He said, “You can quit that job.” Because I wasn’t making very much and go to that company and Steve [inaudible] So when I got there, William Steven then asked me what was I doing there? I said, “Don’t you remember giving me this card? He said, “Yeah But you’re supposed to call for an appointment We have auditions every Thursday.” This was a Monday, mind you Yeah So I probably looked like I was about to have a fit Just falling on the floor and just sick of being like a brat He looked at me and he said, “Answer this phone, I’ll be right back.” I knew how to answer a phone Having had a commercial course in high school I knew how to pick up that phone and say, A&R department, may I help you? Then asked by everybody, who is this? Because there was no secretary prior to me No one was answering the phone or taking messages but I could do it adequately He was gone for a while writing a song for this drummer that was on the list by the name of Marvin Gaye What a marvelous time to be at that company Yeah They were growing and they just had this beautiful man come from Washington DC brought there by Harvey [inaudible] who was part of the family but also a member of the Moon Laws that was a group that was famous when we were growing up Since I had gathered all of the talented people in the world right there at, 2648 West Grand Boulevard here in Detroit I had to be there in the very first group of people Yeah, I was going to say, was the sign even up, the iconic sign? Yeah Did you work under that? It was a hand painted sign Probably with some house paint It was Hitsville, USA when I first arrived It’s been modified of course They are working on it now to make it a Motown museum But where I went was Hitsville, USA When I got there, it was filled to the brim with enterprising writers, musicians, singers, all working under the mentorship of Berry Gordy Berry Gordy Jr. Had a vision, the same as Martin Luther King because he went to record it that I Have a Dream speech on what was the very first time that Martin Luther King delivered that speech Berry Gordy recorded it Really? I didn’t know that Yeah. But Berry was spiritual He was directly connected to the system He had gone to New York and found out how record companies operate On his own he had found out He had gone from a record store owner to a music producer, his first wife and his sister Bull Head recording company prior to him having his own at Hitsville USA The story is told that his family were entrepreneurs and they had a corporation His family loaned him money from the corporations, a bank accounts to start his own record company in his own house It was a small mansion but it was on the Boulevard, at Western Boulevard So he took the money that they loaned him and promised with the promissory note to pay them back Look what he did, he made millions With just the help of his family and the idea and the dream of making the sound of [inaudible] America, and collecting people and writers and musicians and everything in his house to make a company called Motown [LAUGHTER] So you get there and you start answering phones and you prove yourself Don’t forget I’m singing every day too I’m making demos, writers work at the artist and repertoire department The A&R department They would come to work back as if they were reporting to a factory every day They were 17 of them, and all of them were good writers They had previously been singers Give you an example. Eddie Holland, who wrote most of the songs with his brother, Brian and Lamont Dozier had a record out called Jamie, and it went to number 1 Instead of him following the path of show business, he decided he did not like the fate He did not like to travel, he did not like being under the pressure that singers are put on there to perform what they’ve recorded So he asked Gaye if he could just stay as a writer and team with his brother and their first composition was, Come and Get These Memories Our first recording that made the charts It wasn’t our first recording But I had sung a demo for Mary Wells. She was leaving the company You see I was there at the right time and everything just seem like to have been in divine order Everything just clicked for me and I was unaware of a lot of things, but learned them in a hurry I had a crash course in how to get efficient, planned, and how to call the right musicians and to have them all there on time and to deal with the 17 writers and under one office, under the direction of William Stevenson,

the A&R directors, and Clarence Paul, his assistant So you’re doing all this and you mentioned Mary and she was a mentor to you, right? No, she was my first idol I didn’t know her She was leaving as I was coming to the company She had a record out called, Bye Bye Baby that she sang to Berry Gordy at [inaudible] and you had a chance to speak to your artist Mark Johnson had a record out called, You’ve Got What it Takes and he was at the goal room and [inaudible] was the DJ, [inaudible] his assistant gave Motown a chance to bring their artist of there, let them sing their songs and the audience would have them take off their shoes Shoes didn’t cost that much They would slide around on the floor This [inaudible] I saw in the northern part of England at a place called Weak, and where you could take your shoes off and dance all night, and you talk and have a good time sliding on the floor and doing different dances [LAUGHTER] A sock hop, right? Yeah. You call it a sock hop and only dumb when they let us come on the goal room under 20 grand and go on stage and sing to the youngsters that would gather there Eighteen and older and have a good time exposing our record Well she approached Berry Gordy and told him that she wanted him to sing, have his [inaudible] Jackie Wilson, the first production he did prior to his successes into the USA She wanted him to give this song to Jackie Wilson the ones he heard her sing, Acapelo right there on the spot He said, “I’m going to make you a female vocalist, number 1 in the country.” He did. He discovers her at the age of 14, it was wonderful It was wonderful how she had her talent so intact She had written a song and sang it for him, and he brought her to the company Her first record was Bye Bye Baby, her second one was Two Lovers, You Beat Me to the Punch was I think the third one, and then My Guy Yeah, My Guy Written by Williams Robinson, better known as Smokey Somehow she wanted to leave the company A guy named Herman Griffin came and convinced her to leave the company and go to another level I did a demonstration record for her as the union man came in It seems like I’ve always been at the right place. [LAUGHTER] I know They insisted that someone be on the mic while the sounds are being recorded I think I’ll have to let him go, which wound up being, I found that Berry Gordy heard and said, “Mary is leaving. Who is this thing in this?” It happened to be moi, so I was asked to get some backup singers and record it before the name was developed then Delarice before Destiny was developed, I called it Couldn’t get The Andantes, they were on the list Okay They were somewhere else recording and weren’t available I had to not let William Stevenson down because that’s not the way Motown was ran If you couldn’t get these people, then you call the next people I thought about who I’m staying with Gloria Williamson, the lead singer decided she didn’t want to go onto show business She had a job at the city and she had children, and she also was a director at her choir She played fluent keyboard Oh, what a great thing singer She decided she didn’t want to take the trip and we had to make a name I came up with The Vandellas, I actually was in the NR department and typed my own contract up That’s awesome Didn’t know exactly how to form a contract, but I knew how to type one up and to sign it We became Vandellas and with me being the only lead singer, my name was put out there because I did all the work I sold this thing, I did the forming, I called them in to do the sessions I managed to just come up with my own destiny, with my own future in show business Having the ability to retain Larry and knew how to help rhyme things and use thesauruses and dictionaries to help the different producers rhyme and produce their songs and watch them write them or watch them record them I know the way that they were recorded and how does Motown sound was produced It isn’t courageously to have a couple of albums myself I have a label and don’t know exactly how to get into the business like Berry Gordy took us We didn’t have any care, all we had to do was just sing, and Berry would make all the arrangements But I’ll always admire him because he opened his house to over 40 acts Most of us went to superstardom Now, you’re doing the demos and then you get the call up and you form the group Does Berry Gordy have you doing the legendary finishing school stuff? As we developed, he found out that a group like The Marvelettes who had the first hit record, girls group had the first hit record, Mr. Postman It was during the war, but people don’t remember, but the Korean War was as severe as the Vietnam War, but they were connected The four one was over but the next one started There were songs we had made about the war and Mr. Postman was the song for everybody because everybody would stand

by their mailboxes and wait for letters from their loved one and Mr. Postman was an instant hit for the Marvelletes It was about, “We got to go and travel now We go to go to the different people who bought the record and sing in different venues that were being established Another load of lifestyle, we could work in arenas and big assembly halls as the music grew.” So we had to be groomed So Berry was smart enough to hire people like Professor [inaudible] and she was an actress who has a finishing school, was another local entrepreneur who actually made beauty products, Carmine Murphy was her name Between the two of them, they would groom the women and teach them how to handle themselves professionally, how to walk, how to stand, how to dress, how to be proper, how to be socially accepted, because we’re the first group of people who were allowed to sit at campus in the segregated stalls and different places where Blacks weren’t allowed So we were like a civil rights movement We were the ones that were trained how Just like today, we’re having to train our youngsters how to deal with authorities We were taught how to deal with the segregation and how to deal with the incidents that happened trying to travel the lot of a summer bus, getting mistaken for freedom writers, but getting through the danger, very few incidents, but on that first local review was a 12-piece stand and was a seven-act and writing on 94 all nighters, that’s three months of our lives Wow Of two hotel visits, because most of the places we played didn’t allow us to stay in their hotel, but the tour was such a strenuous one We didn’t have time to rest in our hotel because we had to travel Changing bus drivers but traveling with a broken down Trailways, not even a Greyhound bus, a broken now Trailways I think Trailways is out of business now, [LAUGHTER] but we did that When we came back to Detroit after three months of traveling and touring, November, December, and January, everybody’s records had shot it It was the best thing a promotion that Berry Gordy could have ever done to get our music established, and to get together our faces in the places, and getting us known to the people who are buying our record because we had a sound and we had a Motown way, and we had the Funk Brothers and we had Choker Campbell’s 12-piece band I mean, we had all the help that our audios could get because of Berry Gordy’s direction with them knowing that we needed music theory so Maurice King and and Danny Allen taught us that on our off days If we weren’t on the road, we were in the studio They had a department called artist development I don’t think any other record company had such an office or a department like that We excelled because of our being trained by professionals, Cholly Atkins from Vaudeville taught us professional steps We didn’t dance with our bodies, we danced with our feet That was the way that the people in Vaudeville trained or danced Leading the people whose shoulders we stand on had tap lessons and ballet lessons, and they were professional and we were taught to be professional You mentioned the difficulty with racism during that time You said, thankfully, there were only a few incidents, but what was the most painful? Well, the memories never leaves you Yeah Especially when you are young and you hear with stories like Emmett Till, the young man who was accused of winking at a White woman, which was a lie because she confessed that after he had been murdered, and drowned, and hung, and everything else they could do to a Black man She confessed that she hadn’t been endangered or even winked at It was just something that she made up Yeah But that’s similar to what’s happened of late where hatred comes to and it shows its ugly face We have a lot of things happening now that happened then Right We were shot at it. We were chased from place to place but never harmed, or maybe on a couple of occasions that were harmed to a couple of them numbers, but we survived When we got past the hatred, we found a whole lot of love from the people who would some and see us Seeing segregated audiences get up and break the rule and take the barriers down and mingle with one another, give each other high-fives and handshakes and back clapping that only happened after the music was sang and after the finale with Smokey Robinson leading us in a song like Mickey’s Monkey But everybody was acting like children and acting like monkeys There was some of the finale and some of the places where we thought segregation lose its ugly head and everybody come and get united with The Motown Song Do you feel that you must be proud that the music that you made had helped with the progress of race relations in this country,

although it feels like they’re at an all time low, but they were worse before the music you made? Well, it was very good as bring to do the sound of young America People that don’t understand that this is the United State are to be pitied, because with everything from everywhere as a race and as a nation, I might have come from Eufaula to Detroit, but there’s some people who came from the far end of the world and get in the United State But you can’t really call it a white nation, or a black nation, or a colored nation, or a white supremacy nation It’s a world of united people From that period, the civil rights period and the progress we made as a country, and it’s hard to talk about that progress when we have what’s going on now ’cause it feels like a step backwards But we’re actually making progress, and I think you even said, one of the documentaries I’ve seen of the ’67 Detroit riots and how they actually helped us move forward Yeah, we had a good occasion to have a Canadian by the name of Robin Seymour God bless his soul, he just recently passed But he came from Windsor, which is just across the river from Detroit, and he had a show at our Fox Theater The day of the riot, the day it broke out, we were onstage getting ready to sing our latest recording, which happened to be a song called, Jimmy Mack It was about the war It was about when is Jimmy Mack coming back It’s about my arms are missing you This is got to keep coming around trying to talk to me, but I’m waiting on you Jimmy. When are you coming back? Which to my dismay, I didn’t get a chance to even voice it, because I was called to the edge of the stage and told by Robin Seymour that a riot had broken out and that the sirens were ringing, and that we had a curfew, we had to be home at a certain time All this was told to me in a brief little pause after I was called off the stage prior to singing my latest recording and was able to go back to the mic in a calm way Let everybody know they had to go home Well, do it quietly and peacefully cause there is a curfew and a riot But did you know there had been a thing in the air, it was evident that it was going to happen, the revolution It was there because of brutality, we couldn’t stand on the streets [inaudible] without different unit of policing would come by and chase us off the street corner, hit us in the head with bullet clubs, throw us in jail if we resisted, because we would just want to gather on the corner and sing there were no recreation hall for us to sing in We couldn’t sing secular music outside of the church, and church had rehearsal maybe once a week We want to sing everyday It was other things like prostitution One of the stories about the riot came from a hotel where we don’t know what was going on in that hotel The movie, it doesn’t depict the truth that sensationalism to sell that Detroit movie that was released, and I’m glad it didn’t live very long Right About our riot, but it was all over the world It was time for everybody to realize that the brutality should stop It hasn’t stopped and it’s evident that we still need more training But even in spite of all of the things we went through, we all came back with our records in the chart We all came back happy and fulfilled that we had done a good tour, that we have survived a lot of the controversy, and we had proven a lot of people wrong We can live together, we can love one another, and very good it could critic the lyrics that his writers He had a stuff of writers, he would critic every lyric to make sure that we didn’t offend anybody, that we didn’t cause any hate, and we didn’t debate ourselves or to do anything sinful, or shameful, or wrong He’s not a very tall person, he wasn’t that much older than us But he was sincere and he knew what he wanted He was a very concerned leader He didn’t just make records on you and make money, he wanted to develop your character He wanted to let you know that you are standing on the shoulders of a lot of talented people He had us do our research, he trained us in every way to be professional to make him proud and make the world embrace The Motown Song When you were talking a little bit about what was going on then, but do you feel optimistic about this wave of revolution that’s happening? I feel very optimistic I’m talking to you, you’re making my day [LAUGHTER] You’re making mine Cause I’ve really long to be with the people who love us and embrace us, so this is a shut down Yeah I feel that is our fault for letting a lot of things go by that should have been halted, a lot of things that should have been critiqued, a lot of things that should have been the standard of professionalism and the standard of righteousness

[LAUGHTER] I’ve been reading an idea and it’s a lot of things that you can put your finger on and say, “Yeah, this is happening right now.” Yeah But it was proved and served with music If you go to church, and I hope everybody that is listening to me do The song has to start the service before the message can be given You got to either harden and free the spirits with song, with good tones in the ear, with good remembrance of kindness and love and gentleness and peace. It’s a way of life You were talking about the celebrations of life and togetherness and what we all need to do as the human race and I feel dancing in the street is the song for that Do you do you get those feelings when you still perform that song? Yes, I do I know what I was feeling in when I sing the song and people don’t understand It’s not a pillow song, it’s a singular song Dancing in the street was what we did in our neighborhood We didn’t have a Rick Hall We didn’t know anything about getting together and singing and dancing in the street They had worked for the city He worked for the city water department He and [inaudible] they’ve decided they would go to the police department and Mr. Elliott, worked for the bus company, he was also a city employee They went to the police department and said, “Block the street off and dance on Saturday night.” Right in front of our houses until the sun went down, and then we could quiet down, and not disturb anybody, but just the people on our block That’s where my dancing in the street came from No matter what you wear, just as long as you’re there, every guy grab a girl everywhere around the world They were written by Marvin Gaye, Ivy Hunter, and William Stevenson, whatever they intended, did not come into my spirit [LAUGHTER] What is in my spirit was in our neighborhood, our next door neighbors, letting it be what they would put their record players, not office and tweeters It’s not so loud it would stop your heart beat if you had a pacemaker [LAUGHTER] Not loud, just record player so that you could walk from house to house to hear what they were playing But we were dancing in our little corner stone block, just one block of the neighborhood It was like an answered prayer to me because our block was solid We didn’t have a block club, we had a block union, and we understood everybody The lady next door could tell on us and we could get a whipping [LAUGHTER] Mrs. Holden, that lived across the street was nosy She would tell on us if we were not obedient to our parents, and get in her house before the street lights came on Or if she caught us doing something in the back of the house or in the tea alley that we shouldn’t have been [LAUGHTER] doing, she could get us killed by our parent “I’m going to tell your daddy” or “I’m going to tell you mother.” That’s how our type of neighborhood was We weren’t bad kids, but it was a lot of us We enjoyed knowing that somebody was watching us Tell me though, if we could go back to Dancing in the Street, so many people have recorded Little Richard, the Dead, Van Halen, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, obviously yours is the best, but whose is second best? I have no idea. Because everybody that sang it had to give accolades to Marvin Gaye, William Stevenson, and Ivy Hunter, who wrote it, and I’m sure they’ve benefited from everybody copying it I feel that mine, and my spirit, enhanced it Yeah. That’s one other thing I wanted to ask you about, is the Stones, when they do Street Fighting Man, “Summer’s here, the time is right for fighting in the streets,” and then Bruce Springsteen did the same thing with Racing in the Street Did you hear those when they came out, and have a reaction to them? I don’t want to sound naive, but no, I’ve never. [OVERLAPPING] Really? But they felt the excitement of that song Yeah The musicians chip on that song When you hear the first drumbeat and before the horns come in, you almost jump It’s so exciting It’s almost the same effect that bullfighting had When you hear that, [NOISE] [LAUGHTER] you know the bull’s about to come out of there, and with the fury of his rage, it has that same excitement to me Yeah The first trumpet part of the track, the Funk Brothers were magical They are basically the heartbeat of the Motown Sound Those musicians got together and did a remarkable job But Ivy Hunter, William Stevenson, and Marvin Gaye did a great production on it Yeah My spirit happy to sing about us dancing in the street in my neighborhood as a teenager I think it all made a wonderful masterpiece Now, if you ask me if I sold a million records, I can’t tell you, because it went to number 2 in the chart The Rolling Stones, I mean, Mick Jagger, Dave Bowie made more money for

Live Aid than I made off the record and I’m the one who sang it Right, that’s so weird I don’t like their [LAUGHTER] version I do want to know though, what do you think of The Grateful Dead’s version, or Van Halen’s, or Little Richard’s versions? I laugh at it because they wanted to feel what we felt, but we captured it Yeah They imitated it If they wanted to make it sound like a different atmosphere, then I think they did that But what we came was straight from the heart, straight from the thrill of being able to dance in the street Do you know how [OVERLAPPING] many apartments we were chased off of just trying to sing without music? So now we’re allowed to come out of our house and right in front of our house, on those cobblestone rocks, on those cobblestone bricks, and just dance until the 12 o’clock hour That’s great Every Saturday we had something to look forward to, and it was in our neighborhood, it was peaceful It was nobody coming from somewhere else and saying, “Oh, we’re going to get in on that.” [LAUGHTER] It was just having a good time with our neighbors, and it was never intended to be a theme song for a riot Right? [OVERLAPPING] They’re not in my spirit It somehow was used for that I never knew that I actually said in an interview in England and cried because they thought that I was some group leader, riot protester and activist To a sing a song and have people go and kill store owners and break into stores, and burn houses and things in their own neighborhood That was very stupid to burn up your own neighborhood That’s just a gross man’s interpretation It’s such an obviously happy song, I feel like. [OVERLAPPING] The words don’t say go and kill somebody and break in their store, or hate anybody It was about us all dancing in the street Right Calling out around the world Yeah, it’s a happy song In Alabama I never knew I would be singing for the world, but my dreams came true I tell people, and somehow they don’t remember it, Marvin Gaye was singing that song because he had written it and played the keyboard on it, and was singing it, and I was standing in the doorway after having completed my classes at Artist Development I basically had to run the place, because I had been an A&R secretary before my record hit So I had the free will to go from place to place, and was standing in the door in awe, because he was such a good looking man, and he had such a pretty voice He was singing, Dancing in the Street as if he was singing to a girl Like, “Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat, baby?” Marvin Gaye’s style of singing Right I was standing there in awe. He looked up and said, “Hey man, let’s try this song on Martha.” I’m looking behind me wondering how does he know I was even there? Because I was standing outside of the room in the doorway That’s how it was at Motown When you recorded, there was somebody always there, ready to take the song if you couldn’t do it We had such a variety of writers and such good songs coming out of all of them, that we would put in our bid for the next hit, from the Holland-Dozier-Holland, or from Barrett Strong, or Smokey Robinson, or Stevie Wonder I mean, all these producers were there and all these songs were available I’m standing there looking at Marvin, but he looks and says, “Let’s try the song on Martha,” and I had practically learned it the way he was singing it, but I didn’t feel it the way he sang it So after going in the studio, putting on the earphones, I said, “Can I sing the song the way that I feel it?” Because his note was a man’s note, and I had to go to the third of the chord, if you know what I’m about Yeah To sing this song from my heart and realizing that this Dancing in the Street is something we’ve been doing all along We did this when I was in my teens So here I am in a studio singing about something that I loved, and was very special to me Singing on those Saturday nights and dancing in the street to the different songs that were popular was a trill to us We could let go, we could be free [inaudible] worry about cars hitting us, or a plane landing on us, or a truck bearing down on us We could block that street off with police permission, and play our music and dance So that’s a freedom that a lot of people didn’t really enjoy during those times So when I got a chance to sing about it, I was so happy and they were happy with me Yeah. You mentioned the people being around always ready to take it if somebody else couldn’t do it Was it competitive, or was it friendly? That’s the only competition that Motown artists had; with one another, because Motown excelled If there was a show and a Motown act was on, the Motown act was the star We always had that pride because we were trained We had professionals show us how to really do what we do We were trained We were formed to be the Motown Sound The Temptations were the best dancing male group in their time

The Contours had a different style, but they were the best with, “Do You Love Me” in their time, and a song written by Berry Gordy, mind you He wrote, “Do You Love Me.” He was a hands-on producer and he was always there critiquing, and making sure that his writers were doing their best That was the competition between the writer, between the singers, and each other, the different acts Do you still talk to Berry Gordy? On occasion Yeah We were together for the 60th anniversary here at our Detroit Opera House We celebrated 60 years, and I can [OVERLAPPING] 58 of those, I’ve been singing the Motown Sound for 58 years That’s amazing. Then Motown left for Los Angeles Did you leave with the company? No. My son was only a few months old when Motown moved So my contract was up and I didn’t realize it I’d been with Motown for 10 years, from ’61 to ’71, and it was time for Berry to do something else I think he went there to make movies I think he outgrew Detroit, whatever the reason, I was left here wondering where to go and what to do I was invited by a gentleman named Ron Strasner, to venture to California, not with Motown, but to sign with Universal Records and continue my career After meeting Richard Perry and doing my first solo album, continued my career, very good album Sang some wonderful songs, got to know Universal Music It’s ironic, Berry Gordy eventually sold most of his masters and publishing to Universal, but I was on MCA and continued my carrier Yeah, I think I read somewhere that, that first album was one of the most expensive albums of all time up to that time. Is that right? I’m sure that they’ll watch the producers a little closer than Richard Perry was watching Yeah He had a budget and he spent money Some of it was for recording [LAUGHTER] So when they say it was like 250 grand He was recording Milston Yeah He was doing Carly Simon He was doing the drummer for The Beatles Ringo Ringo Starr. He was doing his album, his solo album He was very, very busy at that time Doing everybody, trying to keep the Beatles together, make the group get back together God was watching and we all survived that and I made some great recordings I was thinking about Billy Preston the other day, he wrote a song for me on that album called, You’ve Got Me For Company I got a DJ friend who lives in Flint When I talked to her, I’ll call her, I’d start off talking to her and she would sing along with me We got a little duet then we’d go got the lyrics were, “As long as you got me for company, and we have each other musically for company.” I’m never alone because I know the knowledge of what unity and what fellowship we have with the people who bought our music and made us famous It was all the chance who knew that Shop Around would be a million seller, who knew that Come and Get These Memories would be embraced and it’s now a book I think the Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote a book called, Come and Get These Memories Yeah, and Heat Wave was a million seller too? I don’t know about a million sellers, but it was the first song that they got dedicated with the Motown Sound he’d been looking for Heat Wave has been played and re-recorded by a lot of people too Linda Ronstadt did a wonderful version of Heat Wave I like it I never knew about that side of the business Million sellers? Well, I don’t have that many gold records on my wall I have one big gold record, I think it’s the Heat Wave album, where we did cover versions of a lot of the hits at the time I have one of those I wasn’t counting million sellers of money, I was counting hit records and appearances and the wonderful fans that came with the music We traveled and going to the same place again and meeting friends over the years and still have a correspondence with them and still look forward to Christmas and getting Christmas cards So seeing that we were playing in their town, so we’ve made some wonderful relationships with our music lovers and spiritual friend Okay, you do MCA for a number of albums and then The Fantasy Also, The Fantasy, yes Do you still performed the songs from that phase of your career when you perform? Only if people have heard of it enough to ask to put it in my act, because that’s what our shows is based on What songs people want to hear, because I’ve recorded over 1,000 songs I’ve got so many songs that people want me to sing, but the majority of songs in our act are what fans have said they want to hear What are the songs that still do it for you, that you’re very, very happy to have in your sets? Well, I’ll Follow You is one that I just recently put in and I’ve asked our arranger, Darrel Smith, who happily came, replaced Al McKenzie, who has been my conductor for 30 years, he just recently passed

But we’re working on a new arrangements to deal with songs, like I’m a Winner that Ashford and Simpson wrote When Valerie and Nick came to Motown, I was the first artist that Garry allowed them to produce and we did a song, I think Marvin Gaye did a version of it too with a song called I’m a Winner I’m putting that in the act and soon as our back up and running and I’m also done an arrangement for a song that I did in a soundtrack on Universal, the Universal Pictures There was a movie called Willie Dynamite and one of the songs that I’m going to be singing because it’s in my heart to do is King Midas It is still with my soul to sing that Okay. That’s great Do you do the song that you did with The Crystal Method, I have a hard time imagining that in the set next to Jimmy Mack But now that proves the point for me doing The Crystal Method because I was asked at an interview, what I thought of rapid hip hop and I was trying to explain to them that I didn’t particularly like the profanity in rap and I said I don’t like the profanity, but the profanity part wasn’t aired, it was edited out of my interview, which caused whole lot of people to think that I didn’t appreciate the music made with the synthesizes I call them noisy toys [LAUGHTER] Some people took it to heart So it looks like something I had to live down I did a few, a telephone calls and they were saying, don’t knock our music, having that controversy they’d put me with some synthesized music makers, but they also let me use real musicians to combine the sound So that was a hit, that epiphany, to have me go and work with synthesizers, but come up with a fabulous song that only they can do on their show because of the power techniques that they use and how they present their song, their synthesizers, the explosions, and the frenzy that it causes I had a chance to watch Crystal Method in concert We worked on the same deal, but they didn’t ask me to sing that song, because they were trying to do the music, not so much the lyrics One child with a dream for the future He changed the scenes, he took the breathe of yours and mine and turned it into a goldmine There’s a guy here called Kyrie [inaudible] and who took the debris, old lawnmowers and old vacuum cleaners, and tires and toys and put them on houses and had a whole area that you come and visit here Tourists come to visit the Heidelberg area and that’s what I was singing about So there’s no story to it, it’s just that we got together and made some good sounds The thrill of it, all of those during the Jimmy Kimmel show and getting some of the finest musicians on every group [inaudible] and the Rolling Stones drummer and Van Halen, the guitar play They had that collection of beautiful musicians and did a wonderful show for Jimmy Kimmel I thought that was a thrill and a dream Is there anything you haven’t done? [LAUGHTER] You’ve done politics, you’ve done acting I did that four years in this Detroit City [inaudible] You’ve done the Super Bowl I’m a mommy, yeah Yeah, you’re a mom I got great grandchildren Wow I’ve done commencement celebrations at different colleges I’ve just recently made a demo for AARP, to enhance people’s voting, I’m on a billboard here in the city, ask the people to enter the census request because it will mean the benefits for the city for different funding for schools and housing and to help the city enhance itself and come back after this pandemic But I’m available So you have to be available and enjoy being in service and that’s what I live for Yeah. You’ve done everything you’ve wanted to do in your life, right? I don’t know. I guess I’m satisfied, but I always think that I can reach the next level and it’s been prophesied that I’m going to another level I had this wonderful spiritual leader take me by the hand and tell me, “Baby, prepare yourself You’re again really go to another level.” I’m ready. [LAUGHTER] I am ready What does that mean, another level? That’s okay, I’ve come from a long way, from Eufaula, Alabama I’m going to do a whole lot of wonderful things, where I’m going to public schools I got an education that people pay for, despite public domain, I’m a spiritual person, and I’ve still got love in my heart and a desire to do whatever’s next [MUSIC] Do you have love in your heart and a desire to do whatever’s next? Now, those really seemed to be the utilities that every musician needs right now What a treat to talk to Martha Reeves Hey, speaking of treats, if you want to save $100 on a Berklee Online Course, just go visit musicismylifepod.com right now and there you will find all the info you need,

as well as a whole bunch of other free resources [MUSIC] This episode was edited by Talia Smith, mastered by Jose David Bendis Morris All visual assets coordinated by Michael Benedictus, social media by Brooke Larson, web assistance courtesy of Mark Thomas and Steve Zimmerman, [inaudible] and Christine Ira, and recorded the Music is my Life theme song, but the expert remixing comes courtesy of Lily Dickinson Special thanks to Gabriel [inaudible] Cohen, Ashley Pointer, Dundee Halt, the magnificent Martha Reeves, and thanks very much to you for listening I really can’t thank you enough for tuning in throughout the season It has definitely been our best so far, and until we speak again, which will be sometime in the fall, be sure to do what Martha Reeves would do, have love in your heart and the desire to do whatever’s next [MUSIC]