Another landmark Motown “first” here; in this instance, it’s the first Motown duet. Apparently spurred on by Etta (James) & Harvey (Fuqua)’s If I Can’t Have You, Berry Gordy decided that now his burgeoning roster contained vocal groups, instrumental bands, and both female and male solo vocalists, the next step was to get in on the duet action. It was a formula Motown would turn to frequently in future years; team up an established vocalist with a talented newcomer and rack up both hits and welcome exposure.
Here, Singin’ Sammy Ward we’ve already met; the talented newcomer in this case was saucy, sandpaper-voiced Sherri Taylor, who’d written the Taylor Tones’ jaunty little girl group rocker Too Young To Love (sources are unclear as to whether Sherri was actually in the Taylor Tones as a performer as well).
In addition, Taylor had also cut a solo single, the bristling R&B rocker He’s The One That Rings My Bell for another Detroit label, Gloreco; that song was co-written by Billy “Roquel” Davis, frequent songwriting partner of Berry Gordy and co-owner of the Anna Records label with Berry’s sister Gwen. Further, He’s The One That Rings My Bell would have been perfect for a Motown release, which is unlikely to have escaped Gordy’s attention.
Either way, Sherri was signed up for a Motown single, but rather than release a solo record on her, Gordy instead opted to pair her with Singin’ Sammy Ward for this fun duet.
One of the few instances where both Brian Holland and Smokey Robinson share a songwriting credit, this is a rough and ready R&B rocker much closer in feel to Sherri’s previous record than Etta & Harvey’s hit.
Neither of the two singers was much in favour of keeping things restrained, both had excellent strong blues voices, and here they both trade lines like barbs in an energetic one-two attack over a sparse, bluesy backing replete with finger-clicks and a simple, repeating guitar riff.
Both Sherri and Sammy escalate the volume as the song goes on, heading out towards Aretha Franklin and James Brown territory respectively, and as we reach the 2:30 mark the backing picks up and gets more raucous (the drums get louder, the bass gets more prominent and the guitarist starts thrashing more violently at his instrument, making a few noticeable mistakes in the process), leaving our two leads almost screaming to each other as the music begins to fade.
Sure, it’s not exactly Marvin and Tammi, but nobody’s claiming that; what it is is plenty of fun, and there’s extra satisfaction to be gained from knowing this is the record that started Motown down the duet path.
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6 / 10
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You’re reading Motown Junkies, an attempt to review every Motown A- and B-side ever released. Click on the “previous” and “next” buttons below to go back and forth through the catalogue, or visit the Master Index for a full list of reviews so far.
|Sherri Taylor & Singin’ Sammy Ward
“That’s Why I Love You So Much”