The Songs of Summer #81-82: Motown Double Shot
Sigh. Summer’s winding down. We’re past the halfway point of August, and it’s a continual downhill slide into another school year. I live with two students and a teacher, so the anxiety levels and the ‘woe is me summer’s almost over I don’t wanna go back to school’ vibe is really starting to ramp up. The talk around the house is increasingly turning to how many weeks are left in summer before school…soon that talk will convert from weeks to days remaining…It’s all too much for this year-rounder to handle.
There’s something else about the second half of August here in Michigan that tells me that summer’s starting to shift into an early (very early) autumn pattern, and I just noticed it for the first time this year when I stepped outside this morning. It’s the air. Do you notice this where you live? Something changes in the very smell, the feel of the air outside that feels just a teensy bit different, just a tiny little bit fall-like. I can’t describe it, and I don’t know what causes it. Is it the lowering angle of the sun? Are the plants and trees putting out some different kind of scent now that their growing season is almost over? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just crazy, but Michigan seasons to me definitely have their own smells. Autumn definitely has a great smell to it, with all the colorful leaves dying and falling…Spring too, with the exact opposite happening, as everything springs back to life after a long dormant winter. Even winter has a smell; it’s almost a non-smell, but if I go outside on a snowy, blowy day…I can smell it.
Summer? Summer’s probably the best-smelling season of all. The flowers, the fresh-cut grass, the beach, the suntan lotion… Everything smells better in the summer. Maybe it’s because it’s the time of year we northerners typically spend the most amount of time outdoors. But as August winds down into September, that summery smell changes. Like I said, I can’t really describe it, but I think of it as the “Back to School” smell. And even though it’s still hot and humid outside, that smell is arriving…quickly.
But…But. It is still summer. And I’ve still got plenty of the Songs of Summer to last me awhile, so let’s get to it. Today? More Motown. There can never be enough Motown. This first track I don’t even need to explain. Covered by many. Duplicated by none. The Sound of Young America. A massive 1964 hit.
‘Dancing in the Street‘ by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
The second Motown track is hands down my favorite Motown track of all time. ‘Ask the Lonely‘ by The Four Tops. Not a big hit. I’m not even sure it was released as a single. Probably it was, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a simply gorgeous, gorgeous song, and I love to hear this song anytime of the year, but it’s perfect for drifting out of the speakers on a warm summer’s night. It’s absolute brilliance. It’s everything that made Motown great rolled into one massive ballad. Levi Stubb’s glorious lead vocal. (Sorry Stevie. Sorry Marvin. Levi Stubbs is the greatest male Motown vocalist. I mean, listen to this.) Listen to the background vocals sing ‘just ask the lonely…’ They send shivers down my spine. Every time. Backing music by Motown’s legendary Funk Brothers (wait, you haven’t seen Standing in the Shadows of Motown? Go. Watch it right now. I’ll wait.)…additional strings courtesy of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
It’s perfect. It’s profound. From 1965, a criminally underrated, underplayed masterpiece…’Ask the Lonely.’