Thursday Inspiration #114 Reach Out I’ll Be There

Respond to this challenge, by either by using the prompt word hand, or going with the above picture, or by means of the song ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’, or by going with another song by The Four Tops, or anything else that you think fits.  The Four Tops recorded this song in 1967 on their fourth studio album Reach Out.  ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’ is considered to be their signature song and it was written and produced by the Motown production team of Holland–Dozier–Holland.  The song reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and it went to #1 on the UK singles chart.  Rolling Stone later ranked this version #206 on its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.  Billboard ranked the record as the #4 song for 1966.  This soul-searing Black anthem masterpiece went beyond just offering hope to those reeling from the injustices of systemic racism in the middle of a civil rights movement, as it let them think that love could be a cure and this message was something that the whole country needed to hear.  In 2020, Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden chose this song of hope for chronic despair to use in his campaign soundtrack.

Lamont Dozier said that he wanted to write “a journey of emotions with sustained tension, like a bolero (music in three quarter time).  To get this across, I alternated the keys, from a minor, Russian feel in the verse to a major, gospel feel in the chorus.”  He developed the lyrics with Eddie Holland, aiming for them to sound “as though they were being thrown down vocally.”  Dozier explained, “Brian, Eddie and I often had discussions about what women really want most of all from a man, and after talking about some of our experiences with women, we all three agreed that they wanted someone to be there for them, through thick or thin, and be there at their beck and call!  Thus, this song was born.”  Eddie Holland instructed Levi Stubbs to perform it in a Bob Dylan shout-singing style like what he used on his song ‘Like A Rolling Stone’.

The Four Tops are Motown’s second-greatest male vocal group, after the Temptations.  The original members Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton first sang together at a 1953 birthday party, at the request of friends who had heard them sing separately while Levi, Abdul, and Renaldo attended Pershing High and Lawrence was a student in Northern High school in Detroit.  The quartet started out as the Four Aims, a name they felt reflected their high aims for success and soon after they were backing up such names as Count Basie and Della Reese.  By 1956, they had changed their name to the Four Tops to avoid being confused with another quartet, the Ames Brothers.  This family atmosphere group performed together without a change in the lineup, till founding member Lawrence Payton died in 1997.  When Motown moved to Los Angeles in 1972, the Four Tops wanted to stay in Detroit so they signed with another label.  They would never duplicate the chart-topping success of their years at Motown, but they still were able to score some top 20 hits in the early 1970s.  In all, the Four Tops landed 45 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 from 1964 to 1988.

The quartet’s lead singer Levi Stubbs convincingly conveyed his undying loyalty saying that he would be there for the people who needed him, offering up his hand for them to hold and all they had to do was look over their shoulder to find him and this message was exactly what Black America needed in 1966.  Besides being a message of hope, this is also a love song, as he is singing to a girl who he calls Darling and he tells her that he’ll be there for her in her darkest moments.  He tells her that he will always be there for her and that she will always be able to depend on him.

When you feel lost and about to give up
‘Cause your best just ain’t good enough
And you feel the world has grown cold
And you’re drifting out all on your own
And you need a hand to hold

11 thoughts on “Thursday Inspiration #114 Reach Out I’ll Be There

  1. I always liked them. They weren’t as exciting as the Temptations but they were steady. 45 singles in the top 100 is great.

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