10 Life Lessons From Motown Lyrics

10. “Keep your freedom for as long as you can.”

The song says it best: “Just because you’ve become a young man now / There’s still some things that you don’t understand now / Before you ask some girl for her hand now / Keep your freedom for as long as you can now, / My mama told me…’you better shop around.'” I don’t know what’s with people and jumping the gun on marriage and commitment lately, but I feel like everyone just needs to stop and take a big ol’ breath of Motown.

9. “War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

Sound familiar? Oh, just sing along. Betcha didn’t know this was Motown!

8. “Superstition ain’t the way.”

STEVIE! He was 12 when he first got signed, and by 20, had full creative control and freedom. By 1973, the world knew he was incredible, he’d had a number one album (the youngest ever on the pop charts) and several number one songs before “Superstition.” But damn, nothing feels better than the recognizable riff that opens this song. Superstition ain’t the way, but Stevie sure is.

Plus, remember when Raven did this song for the Haunted Mansion’s soundtrack? Loooool.

7. “Please, Mr Postman.”

Motown taught manners. Berry Gordy instituted an Artist Development Department at Motown, where his stars learned how to walk, talk, breathe, light a cigarette – everything was coached and perfected so that they wouldn’t give white people any more reason to avoid buying their records. Their interviews were amiable, their music was tasteful, and Gordy had a hand in it all. This was Motown’s first #1 on the Billboard Pop Charts, covered by the Beatles, the Carpenters, sampled in Juelz Santana and Lil Wayne songs, but here’s the 1961 original, by The Marvelettes!

6. “If I have to beg and plead for your sympathy, I don’t mind, cause you mean that much to me.”

Put your pride away. Everyone wants a man that ain’t too proud to beg, and nothing says it better than this 1966 classic. The Temptations are pretty easily one of my favourite bands of all time, and this song is just the most infectious, dancey songs… ever. Fun fact: The Temptations, upon their begging and pleading for your sympathy, would have used their manners. Berry Gordy instituted an Artist Development Department at Motown, where his stars learned how to walk, talk, breathe, light a cigarette, and carry themselves in public – everything was coached and perfected to Gordy’s specification. He knew what he was doing, and we are eternally grateful. Now, DANCE!

5. “Music is played for love, cruisin’ was made for love.”

Growing up in Windsor, there’s one thing that everyone enjoys and takes for granted in the border city. The quality of radio is fucking incredible. From our historic CKLW to the crossover stations from Detroit, the airwaves are brimming with variety. Because of all the shared airwaves with the Motor City, we got a lot of Motown, and Smokey was a big part of that.

4. “A, B, C!”

A pretty basic lesson, Motown even taught phonetics. Fun Fact: This song knocked the Beatles’ “Let It Be” from the top spot on the pop charts.


This must be John hearing the Beatles’ watered down Motown covers for the first time. It’s okay, Lenny, nothing will ever be as awkward as some of Jagger’s takes on the classics. Just keep reading.

3. “You can’t hurry love.”

I die a little bit inside every time someone thinks this is originally a Phil Collins song.

And mmmmmmm, this isn’t even that good, but mmmmmm..

2. “Only love can conquer hate.”

Marvin Gaye said it best in What’s Going On. He had full creative control on this album, but boss-man Berry Gordy called it “the worst record” he’d ever heard. One of the most socially-conscious songs of the 60s, and one of the best songs/albums of all time (according to Rolling Stone, Time, Billboard, fucking everybody, google it), and it practically got rejected.

1. “All we need is music, sweet music.”

Alright, so most people know this one. And rightfully so! It’s got a great big opening and an awesome groove, so enjoy the original, by Martha and the Vandellas!

David Bowie and Mick Jagger covered this song for god knows why, but if you want a really, really good laugh, I suggest the video below.

Speaking of sweet, sweet music…
Here are my five Motown favourites (and some fantastic montages) that just didn’t fit into any of the categories above. Cheers!

“Do You Love Me” – The Contours 
You know it from: Dirty Dancing! And because you just know it.
It makes you want to: Werk! Werk! Ahhhh work it out, bay-beh.

“The Way You Do The Things You Do” – The Temptations

You know it from: a few commercials, 2004’s Raise Your Voice.
It makes you want to: marry Smokey Robinson. Although, most Motown songs make me want to do that, the lyrics to this song are just so perfectly written, so adorably strung together and comfortable. The lyrics started as a joke on the tour bus between members of the Miracles, and penned to music for the Temptations. Quite literally one of my favourite songs of all time.

“I Want You Back” – The Jackson 5
You know it from: living on planet Earth.
It makes you want to: cartwheel down a beach and land in a 60s ball pit of flowers and stylized baby Jacksons.

“Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch (Can’t Help Myself)” – The Four Tops
You know it from: countless American Idol auditions and reality singing competion covers.
It makes you want to: start a quartet so you can dance in synchronization and just jam out.

“The Tracks of My Tears” – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
You know it from: having great taste in music, congrats!
It makes you want to: sing and cry with mascara and dance and fall in love with Smokey again and again.

And here, might as well fall in love with Gavin DeGraw, too.


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