Celebrating Black History Month, Motown-style

February is Black History Month in the United States, and perhaps the biggest celebration will be at the White House next week. President Obama will be hosting a concert celebrating the legacy of Motown Records, with performers to include Natasha Bedingfield, Sheryl Crow, Jamie Foxx, John Legend, and the venerable Smokey Robinson himself.

I think that the music of Motown was an excellent choice to feature during Black History Month. Motown Records was founded in 1960 by Berry Gordy, Jr. and was the first record label owned by an African American. Primarily featuring African American artists, Motown Records achieved crossover success with a sound that bridged genres and a popularity that reached across racial lines during a time when much of the country was still segregated. Motown had 110 top 10 hits from 1961 to 1971 (!!) and many after that, from artists including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Jackson 5. Do any of these songs sound familiar?

  • I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye
  • Shop Around – The Miracles (Smokey Robinson)
  • Please Mr. Postman – The Marvelettes
  • (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave – Martha and the Vandellas
  • I Hear A Symphony – The Supremes
  • My Guy – Mary Wells
  • My Girl – The Temptations
  • Stop! In The Name Of Love – The Supremes
  • I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) – The Four Tops
  • Baby Love – The Supremes
  • You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me – The Miracles
  • Do You Love Me – The Contours

Yup, these all came from the Motown label. Needless to say, we have been playing, singing, and dancing to a lot of the Motown hits in music therapy groups this month. This has especially been appealing to the younger residents at the long-term care facilities I visit, but this music has been engaging for residents (and staff!) of all ages and backgrounds.

While I imagine that no one reading this blog will see the Motown Tribute concert in person (although if you are, please let me know!), the concert will be broadcast on PBS stations nationwide on March 1. Viewing this broadcast would be a fun activity to plan for your family or for the residents in your facility because many people, no matter their age, will remember and relate to songs that came from Motown Records.

Do you have a Motown favorite? Please let me know in the comment section below!


  1. musicsparks on February 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Wonderful idea for songs! I imagine most people would recognize at least one or more of them.

    • soundscapemusictherapy on February 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm

      Thanks for the comment! Yes, they were definitely hit-makers over there at Motown Records.

  2. therapeuticharmony on February 22, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Great post! I think I’ll do a motown theme for my adult group on Thursday – time to brush up on some good oldies. 🙂

  3. CB on April 29, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I am a grad student in MT and this is a great list!! Thanks for the ideas 🙂

    • soundscapemusictherapy on April 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Great! I’m glad it’s helpful for you.

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  5. Zaria on February 14, 2022 at 7:57 pm

    These are my favorites. Got them on EVERY playlist I got.

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