Motown Meets Dirty Dancing

Fans of the movie Dirty Dancing as well as fans of classic Motown surely recall the song Do You Love Me by the Contours. The song was written by Motown founder Berry Gordy and actually intended for The Temptations. After being unable to locate them to come into the studio, Gordy overheard The Contours rehearsing in the stairway[1] and decided to have them record the song, instead[2].

Like The Temptations in 1962, The Contours were in search of that elusive first hit. They auditioned for Gordy in 1959 but he told them to come back in a year. However, one of the band members was a cousin of the great Jackie Wilson ((Your Love keeps Lifting Me) Higher and HigherLonely Teardrops) who gave Gordy his start in the business[3] as a songwriter and Wilson convinced Gordy to sign them to a contract.

download (4)Before recording Do You Love Me, The Contours found a place in music history in 1961 by releasing the first single (Funny) with the famous map of Detroit on the label. And in live shows, they also became known for some dirty dancing of their own with highly animated routines that included gymnastics, flips and splits all across the stage.

Sounding just as Gordy had envisioned for The Temptations, Do You Love Me was released by The Contours in June of 1962. It also performed on the charts consistent with Gordy’s vision of “The Sound of America”, achieving crossover, i.e. black and white market, success, hitting #1 on the R&B chart and reaching #3 on the pop chart.

Connections with The Temptations seemed to follow them. In 1964, Richard Street of The Monitors co-wrote a song for them that hit the R&B and pop charts. He later joined The Temptations in 1971. Dennis Edwards became the Contours’ lead singer for what would be their last hit in 1967. He would join The Temptations in 1969, helping them create the psychedelic soul era in pop music as the lead vocal on such songs as Cloud NineI Can’t Get Next to You, and the classic Papa Was a Rolling Stone.

And then Dirty Dancing came in 1988 allowing the group a second turn in the spotlight as Do You Love Me hit #11 on the pop chart along with performances in the subsequent Dirty Dancing Concert Tour.

The Temptations? They’d have to wait until 1963 for their eighth(!) release, The Way You Do The Things You Do, to hit the charts. Even then, their next three singles performed poorly. Then Smokey Robinson wrote a song called My Girl and they seemed to do OK after that. 🙂

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[1] The stairway that visitors like myself walk to get to the house-turned-museum’s second floor.

[2] A singer in The Contours disputes this story saying the song was always intended for them.

[3] And by the business I mean the industry.

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