There’s not a whole lot more that anyone can say about how much Motown changed the music game in the 1960s. And it wasn’t just for black folks or R&B fans–Berry Gordy’s slogan was “the sound of Young America”. And if there was anything American music fans of all stripes could agree on during what was a very tumultuous decade (at least that’s the way it seems from the books I’ve read), it was Motown.
The Temptations’ “Get Ready” probably falls into the second tier of Motown classics, but the label’s catalog is so rich that you can go deep into that second tier and still come up with perfect songs. Speaking of perfect songs, “Get Ready” was written by a man who has more than his fair share of five star jamz, William “Smokey” Robinson. Half a century after it was written and recorded, “Get Ready” still feels exciting. Those call and response vocals! Simple, yet effective, lyrics (a Motown trademark, at least before the psychedelic era took hold). The effortless vocals of The Tempts, this time led by the (very) high tenor of Eddie Kendricks.
And here’s some “Get Ready” trivia. This marked the last hit single Smokey wrote for The Tempts. Apparently Motown was ready to give its preeminent male group some fresh blood on the songwriting/production tip, and had Norman Whitfield (creator of many songs from the above referenced psychedelic era of The Tempts) waiting in the wings. “Get Ready” topped the soul charts, but barely broke the top 30 on the pop list. Robinson was then supplanted by Whitfield, who returned the group to pop glory with another classic, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”.
You know what charted higher than The Temptations’ “Get Ready”? The rock version by another Motown band, Rare Earth. For my money, the version recorded by Scottish twins The Proclaimers for the film Dumb And Dumber is worth a listen, too.