A Tamla Motown Collection – Part 25

Marv Johnson – Why Do You Want To Let Me Go  – TMG 525

Marv Johnson had cut the very first (official) Motown record in the USA, “Come To Me” in January 1959. When this was a hit, his contract was bought from the embryonic Motown company by  United Artists and this had provided much needed cash to lay the foundation stone for everything that had come after.

His UA career had started out great guns, a string of US Top Ten singles which were Motown records in all but name as they were written, produced and recorded at the famous Hitsville, studio. These briefly making him a star at the beginning of the Sixties. But as Motown grew, they concentrated on their own releases and Marv found himself sidelined. By 1964 UA finally gave up.

He returned, naturally enough, to Motown, where he had hopes of picking up where he had left off.  But he was no longer a big deal; Motown had been working hard on new, younger and more commercially relevant acts. Tales of Marv’s arrogant attitude abound, including the occasion when Motown boss, Berry Gordy was turned away by a flunky because he didn’t have an appointment to see Marv.

By this point,  Marv was a voice from the past. He hadn’t moved on musically to connect with the record buyers of the mid 1960s. For Marv, it would always be 1960.

So his first “new” Motown record was this, a cover of one of Eddie Holland’s old United Artists non-hits from 1961. It did just as well for Marv as it had done for Eddie Holland, (who had joined UA at the same time as Marv, but who failed to make any kind of chart impact there.) Quite simply, Marv Johnson needed Motown much more than Motown needed Marv Johnson. This is evidenced by the fact that it took almost a year for his first Motown recording to see the light of day on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.

But eventually, the big comeback starts here! And…

…And it’s not very good.

His high-pitched, reedy, old-fashioned voice just doesn’t deliver, unlike the Funk Brothers who turn in a backing track full of stomp, jangle and clatter.

While there are much better records to come from Marv’s Motown return, this one is a chaotic, messy shambles which really isn’t Marv Johnson’s song.


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