20 Biggest Motown Hits: America’s Musical Heartbeat

Motown, also known as Hitsville USA, emerged as a powerhouse of American music in the 1960s, shaping the sound of a generation and becoming deeply ingrained in popular culture. Founded by Berry Gordy Jr. in Detroit, Motown Records became synonymous with soul, rhythm and blues, and the distinctive “Motown sound,” characterized by catchy melodies, tight harmonies, and infectious rhythms. This list celebrates 20 iconic Motown hits that continue to resonate with audiences worldwide, showcasing the timeless appeal and enduring legacy of the label’s legendary artists and songwriters.

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#1. ” My Girl” by The Temptations (1964)

The Temptations
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Written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, “My Girl” became one of The Temptations’ signature songs, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and capturing the hearts of listeners with its heartfelt lyrics and soulful melody.

#2.”I Heard It Through the Grapevine”  by Marvin Gaye (1968)

Marvin Gaye
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Marvin Gaye’s rendition of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”  became one of Motown’s biggest hits, topping the charts and showcasing Gaye’s emotive vocals and passionate delivery. The song’s driving rhythm and haunting melody have made it a timeless classic.

#3. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (1967)

Nickolas Ashford
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Written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is a soulful duet between Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, celebrating the power of love to overcome any obstacle. The song’s soaring vocals and uplifting message have made it an enduring anthem of resilience and devotion.

#4. ” Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas (1964)

Martha and the Vandellas
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“Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas is a jubilant celebration of music, dance, and community, capturing the spirit of the civil rights era with its infectious groove and spirited vocals. The song’s catchy chorus and driving beat have made it a staple of Motown’s catalog.

#5.” Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes (1961)

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Released in 1961, “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes became Motown’s first number- one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, showcasing the group’s harmonious vocals and irresistible melody. The song’s tale of longing and anticipation resonated with audiences, making it an instant classic.

#6.”I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 (1969)

The Jackson 5
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“I Want You Back” marked the debut of The Jackson 5 and catapulted the group to superstardom with its infectious energy and youthful charm. Written and produced by The Corporation, the song’s catchy hooks and dynamic vocals captured the hearts of listeners worldwide.

#7. “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder (1972)

Stevie Wonder
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Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” is a funk-rock masterpiece that showcases Wonder’s virtuosic talent as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. The song’s infectious groove, driving rhythm, and powerful vocals have made it a timeless favorite and a staple of Motown’s catalog.

#8. “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations (1966)

The Temptations
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“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations is a soulful plea for love and reconciliation, featuring David Ruffin’s impassioned lead vocals and the group’s trademark harmonies. The song’s raw emotion and irresistible groove have made it a classic of the Motown sound.

#9. “My Guy” by Mary Wells (1964)

Mary Wells
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Written and produced by Smokey Robinson, “My Guy” became Mary Wells’ signature song and a chart-topping hit for Motown Records. The song’s catchy melody, playful lyrics, and Wells’ soulful delivery have made it an enduring favorite of the Motown era.

#10.”Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (1965)

Smokey Robinson
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“Tracks of My Tears” is a poignant ballad by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, exploring themes of heartbreak and hidden sorrow. Robinson’s emotive vocals and the song’s lush orchestration have made it a timeless classic and a standout of the Motown catalog.

#11.” Reach Out I’ll Be There” by Four Tops (1966)

Four Tops (1966)
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“Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops is a soulful anthem of support and solidarity, featuring Levi Stubbs’ powerful vocals and the group’s dynamic harmonies. The song’s driving rhythm and uplifting message have made it a Motown masterpiece.

#12.” What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye (1971)

Marvin Gaye
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Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”  is a socially conscious masterpiece that addresses issues of war, poverty, and environmental degradation. The song’s poignant lyrics, lush instrumentation, and Gaye’s soulful vocals have made it a timeless classic and a symbol of the Motown sound.

#13. “Baby Love” by The Supremes (1964)

The Supremes
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“Baby Love” by The Supremes is a pop-soul gem that showcases the group’s impeccable harmonies and Diana Ross’ emotive vocals. The song’s infectious melody and catchy chorus have made it one of Motown’s most enduring hits.

#14. “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by Four Tops (1965)

The Four Tops
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“I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by the Four Tops is a joyful ode to love and infatuation, featuring Levi Stubbs’ soulful vocals and the group’s infectious energy. The song’s irresistible groove and catchy refrain have made it a Motown classic.

#15. “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes (1966)

The Supremes
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“You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes is a timeless anthem of patience and resilience in matters of the heart, featuring Diana Ross’ soulful vocals and the group’s signature harmonies. The song’s catchy melody and uplifting message have made it a staple of Motown’s catalog.

#16. “Stop! In the Name of Love” by The Supremes (1965)

The Supremes
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“Stop! In the Name of Love” by The Supremes is a soulful plea for fidelity and commitment, featuring Diana Ross’ emotive vocals and the group’s impeccable harmonies. The song’s catchy chorus and infectious groove keeps it popular even decades later.

#17. “Shop Around” by The Miracles (1960)

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
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“Shop Around” by The Miracles became Motown’s first million-selling record, introducing the world to the label’s distinctive sound and launching the group to stardom. The song’s catchy melody and Smokey Robinson’s smooth vocals have made it a classic of the Motown era.

#18. Do You Love Me” by The Contours (1962)

The Contours (1960s)
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“Do You Love Me” by The Contours is a high-energy dance anthem that became a chart- topping hit for Motown Records. The song’s infectious rhythm and catchy refrain have made it a favorite at parties and dance floors worldwide.

#19.” Heatwave” by Martha and the Vandellas (1963)

Martha Reeves
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“Heatwave” by Martha and the Vandellas is a sizzling hot dance number that captures the excitement and energy of summer love. The song’s groovy beats and Martha Reeves’ powerhouse vocals keeps it playing on record players worldwide.

#20.”Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” by Stevie Wonder (1965)

Stevie Wonder (1965)
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“Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” by Stevie Wonder is an upbeat and optimistic anthem that celebrates resilience and positivity in the face of adversity. The song’s is a timeless favorite and a hallmark of the Motown era.

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