On December 14, 1968, Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" reached Number One on the Billboard charts and stayed there for seven consecutive weeks, carrying it into the new year. "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" is Gaye's essay on salvaging not just a love affair but also the human spirit. With its fretful, self-absorbed vocal, the song distills 400 years of anguish and talking-drum gossip into three minutes and 15 seconds of soul-searching. Producer Norman Whitfield's lovingly detailed music begins with an obsessively reiterated electric piano figure. A simple drum backbeat is followed by rattlesnake tambourine. Then comes chopping guitar and soaring strings. This version of "Grapevine" is memorable even before Gaye opens his mouth. (Gladys Knight and the Pips had an earlier success with the song, Creedence Clearwater Revival a later one.) Whitfield creates a tumult of voices horns, female choruses, echo, bass-drum breakdowns, string arpeggios that serves as a gossiping community, the singer isolated but engulfed within. Gaye protests, but he knows he's trapped.
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No single figure has been more closely aligned with Motown than indcutee Smokey Robinson. In addition to leading the Miracles, he served as a Motown producer, songwriter, talent scout and Berry Gordy’s most trusted confidant and right-hand man. On Saturday, June 18, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum welcomed Robinson for a special live interview as part of the Museum's Hall of Fame Series. Dr. Lauren Onkey, vice president of education and public programs at the Rock Hall, interviewed Robinson - watch below for highlights from the event.
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