(Written by Raynoma Liles Gordy)
Nothing to do with Little Eva of The Loco-Motion fame; in February 1961, she was still babysitting for Goffin and King in New York. No, this “Little Iva” is the Miracle label’s artistic director, former member of the Rayber Voices, and Berry Gordy’s second wife: Raynoma Liles Gordy, otherwise universally known as “Miss Ray”. Not sure what the need was for this, her only solo single, to be released under a pseudonym, or why the record was made under the Little Iva name rather than her universally-applied sobriquet of “Miss Ray”.
Anyway, this is actually a nice bit of doo-wop balladry. Miss Ray (or “Iva”, or whatever) had a decent voice, as shown by her outings with the Rayber Voices, and she carries off a lead vocal reasonably well despite a few ropey moments. As with the previous Miracle Records single recorded under the auspices of Miss Ray, Don’t Feel Sorry For Me by Jimmy Ruffin, there are deliberately no backing vocals on this one, and again, like Don’t Feel Sorry For Me and its B-side, it’s to the detriment of the record since its tentative lead singer’s flaws are exposed and magnified by the lack of cover.
There’s definitely the germ of an excellent song here, even if it doesn’t ever really take off; there are definite shades of Smokey Robinson, and the chorus sounds like it might have been better suited to a full girl group delivery, virtually calling out for a lush backing vocal, even a call-and-response structure; alternatively, you can imagine Mary Wells absolutely going to town on this. Instead, it’s more a question of what might have been; it’s nice, but it’s a few missing ingredients short of being elevated above the inessential.
Apparently no stock copies of this single were ever manufactured, let alone released (see the “Comments” section below). Whatever the case, it’s regrettable that this single’s utter commercial failure meant no more Motown singles for Miss Ray; the Miracle label, which had been set up in part to allow her some creative freedom, never had a hit, and it appears no further Little Iva records were sanctioned for release with the imprint struggling to break other artists. An indispensible member of the Motown backroom staff during the crucial first years, she was also an arranger and largely-unheralded performer (both vocally with the Rayber Voices, and as a keyboardist, playing key Ondioline parts on a number of early Motown singles). As her marriage to Berry Gordy fell apart, she first moved to New York to head up Motown’s new NYC office, and then left the company altogether in 1964. A second stint with Motown in the late Sixties and early Seventies followed, again with Raynoma in a number of administrative and support roles (including as PA to Diana Ross during the latter’s relationship with Gordy); she went with Motown when the company made the move to Los Angeles, and was eventually fired in the mid-Eighties, bouncing between a number of jobs and releasing a controversial tell-all book, Berry, Me and Motown, in 1990.
This song is one of those for which an original master couldn’t be located for The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1; the version in the collection had to be dubbed from a 45rpm 7″ single, and it shows in a high level of distortion when Miss Ray sings the consonants “s” and “f”. A pity.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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“You Got What It Takes”
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