The THIRD Most Iconic Song in Motown History!!

The THIRD Most Iconic Song In Motown History!!

By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor – in – Chief


VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, Canada (  On January 12, 1959, Berry Gordy Jr. founded the company which would be revealed to the world as Motown Record Corporation on April 14, 1960.


Gordy Jr.’s calling in being endeavored to create “The Sound of Young America” and his crossover strategy allowed him to do just that. With an array of talent unmatched in front as well as in back of the microphone, Gordy, Jr. was able to sell records and spin his way to fame until the reality of history caught up with him in 1967 as his city burned during the riots in Detroit.

In the illustrious history of The Motown Sound, many artists helped to create this music which has stood the test of time, with many songs becoming standards; and with all the years and personal favorites, award winners and such, to list the important songs in the company would seem a herculean task.

As I started to put this piece together, deciding on the first two for me was easy:

Going by the premise Gordy, Jr. desired to attain, Motown’s most important song has to be…




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Written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White of the Miracles, it was a love poem from Smokey to his wife, Claudette. Like many iconic songs (which doesn’t always mean ‘best-selling’) such as Otis Redding’s “Respect” (the version sung by Aretha Franklin) and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” connect to female audiences, pretty much every guy on Planet Earth knows the first lines of this song:




The mid-tempo pace of the song also fits the Gordy, Jr. script. While the lyrics speak of the innocence and purity of love, the pace prevents it from being imagined as a smoky, ‘between the sheets’ butt – nekkid kind of love ballad.




In spite of this, however, the sheer longevity of this song, first released in December of 1964, would indicate that the best efforts of bona fide lurrve men like Barry White, Teddy Pendergrass, Isaac Hayes, Ronnie Isley and all the sexy soul groups (Delfonics, Dramatics, Black Ivory, Moments, et al), it’s safe to say no one song is responsible for making more babies – than “My Girl.”




My girl…


Which brings us to our second most iconic song:






This is second (in my humble opinion) because it is as anti-Motown an effort as ever recorded. It is Motown’s most important album; but the single put forth issues Gordy, Jr. never wanted played out on wax, even after the Detroit riots.

Gaye’s concept album touched base with everything happening in and out of the inner city; and the focus on Vietnam, drugs, the environment, treatment of Black and poor people in this country made it a hot potato not only for Motown, but for the industry itself.




The project, done at Gaye’s insistence (because he had made a shitload of money for the label doing pop songs like “Hitchhike” and duets with Tammi Terrell and Kim Weston as well as producing hits for his colleagues, The Originals) over Gordy, Jr’s objection immediately connected with those who listened to it. All of the innovations produced in the single; the multi-track layering of lead and background vocals, the stream – of – consciousness flow generated by its poly-rhythmic groove, were far removed from anything Motown had ever produced…




It was the lead track to an aural work of art; and Gordy, Jr. hated it – until he found out how much money the single had made…

It also set free in-house talent like producer Norman Whitfield, who had been doing ground breaking work with The Temptations, adopting elements from Gaye’s spiraling  into classics like “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.” Whitfield’s success as a producer also signified the beginning of the disconnect that Motown’s sound was no longer “The Sound of Young America.”



After Gaye’s passing in 1984, What’s Goin’ On began to get its due. Across the board listed by every music magazine and media – related concern, it is now among the greatest musical efforts of all time. The album, while dissed by The Recording Academy when it should have won awards for Album of The Year and other categories,  was finally accepted in 1998 as one of the greatest songs and albums of all time – and entered into their so-called Hall of Fame.


Here now is Motown’s third most iconic song:





(Does your mama know about me?
Does she know just what I am?
Will she turn her back on me)
Or accept me as a man?
And what about your Dad?
Did you think of what he’ll say?
Will he be understanding
Or does he think the usual way?
Maybe I shouldn’t worry
But I’ve been through this before
And I’d like to get things straight
Before I’m knocking on your door
(Does your mama know about me?
Does she know just what I am?
If she says forget about me)
Do you think you’d understand?
And what about your friends?
Do you care what people say?
Will you accept the burdons
I know will surely come your way?
Maybe I shouldn’t worry
But I’ve been through this before
And I’d like to get things straight
Before I’m knocking on your door
(Does your mama know about me?
Does she know just what I am?
Will she turn her back on me?)
Or accept me as a man?
We’ve got to stand tall
Can’t stumble or crawl
We’ve got to be strong
For love that’s so right
Can’t be wrong
And every day I see it grow
And I don’t want to let it go
I guess that’s why I gotta know
(Does your mama know about me?
Does your mama know about me?
Does your mama know about me?
Does your mama know about me?
Does your mama know about me?)
Songwriters: Thomas Chong / Tom Baird
Does Your Mama Know About Me lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


In 1968, the Love of Self was germinating strongly within the Black community across North America. The beauty of Black people loving what they saw in the mirror had consistently struck positive chords since James Brown recorded “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

With this, the Black woman was also finally getting her props in song. “Black Pearl” (Sonny Charles and the Checkmates, Ltd.) “My Ebony Princess” (Jimmy Briscoe and the Little Beavers) were specific in declaring love for a Black female, “Does Your Mama Know About Me?” represents a line of resistance between lead singer Bobby Taylor and his interactions within Motown…




Tommy Chong (of ‘Cheech y’ fame) co – wrote the song, and while the song charted as a hit for Motown, the significance as to why seemed lost on Gordy Jr.

The adversarial relationship between Gordy Jr. and Bobby Taylor had been a constant since Taylor’s discovery of The Jackson 5, his work in producing their first seven albums and his legal issues in getting restitution for writing songs like “ABC” “I Want You Back” and other J5 classics…

Why this song should rank as the third most important song in Motown history – comes from the lead singer’s own lips:




“Tommy Chong – an Asian man – wrote that song because he was in love – with a Black woman,” declared Taylor in a 2006 interview with local DJ/producer David “Love” Jones, played live on his show ‘African Rhythms’ on CITR 101.9 FM earlier this year. “At that time,”  confirms Jones, “many media people and gatekeepers were very disrespectful to him (Taylor) – he was perceived as some sort of B.S. artist because many here dismissed and diminished the truths as to what he had done over the course of his career.”

Jones, who will be producing a film documentary on the life of  local soul icon Jayson Hoover (‘The Trials of Jayson Hoover’) in 2018, says that disrespect belies a huge cultural error on Vancouver’s part. “You had performers like Hoover and Bobby Taylor who laid a foundation for a unique soul sound – which would have been Vancouver’s alone; but, for whatever reason, they chose to choke it to death while still in its cradle.”




True, indeed. Can you imagine New Orleans not recognizing Louis Armstrong, The Marsalis family, Dr. John or The Meters as part of their culture? Philadelphia spurning Gamble and Huff?  Chicago pretending The Chess Blues artists, Curtis Mayfield, Gene Chandler or The Dells didn’t exist?

Most egregious out of all of this – Bobby Taylor named his group after the city he loved; yet no one of import thought to see the obvious – and embrace the group as representative of the area…




Consider how this all made Gordy, Jr., the master promoter and marketer, twist in the wind. Had he pushed this reality that a Black Woman was worthy of being properly ‘stepped-to’ by anyone, I predict the song would have sold infinitely more copies!

Guess that wasn’t what Young America wanted to hear.

To all of us who heard the song (self included) we took it for granted that the song was about a budding multi – ethnic (stop that ‘interracial’ bullshit – it is an incorrect statement!) relationship; with the dynamic being Black to White.

For Chong to write this lyric; elevating The Black Woman as universally desirable and indicating that she as well as her parents were worthy of being approached in a proper manner (given that time frame) is the essence of the import of this song; and to quote the lyric:


“For love that’s so right  – can’t be wrong.”


I contend “Does Your Mama Know About Me?” is not only a turning point in Motown’s history –  it represents a landmark song and moment which should have stood the test of time; were it not for Gordy, Jr.’s deliberate lack of vision.


always outnumbered…never outgunned.  

Copyright (C) 2017 Michael – Louis Ingram all rights reserved.













One thought on “The THIRD Most Iconic Song in Motown History!!

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