Most of Motown Records’ major hit singles featured songs created by the company’s in-house writers. However, there were occasions when its stars scored Top 20 success with songs previously popularized by non-Motown artists.

Michael Jackson figures in three of the titles ranked below, two of them with the Jackson 5. The Four Tops also figure in three, the biggest being with the Supremes.

The artists who had the first hits with these songs were Dee Dee Warwick (“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”), Bobby Day (“Rockin’ Robin”), Bob Dylan (“Blowin’ In The Wind”), the Beatles (“We Can Work It Out”), Thurston Harris (“Little Bitty Pretty One”), Ike & Tina Turner (“River Deep, Mountain High”), the Left Banke (“Walk Away Renée”), Shirley Ellis (“The Nitty Gritty”) and Bobby Darin (“If I Were A Carpenter”).

“Corner Of The Sky” was first recorded by John Rubinstein on the original cast album of Pippin, and released soon after the musical’s bow on Broadway in 1972. Motown had invested in the show. The Jackson 5’s version came out the following year.

“Someday We’ll Be Together” was a Number One song on the Billboard Hot 100 when recorded by Diana Ross & the Supremes. It had previously been cut – without any chart action – by Johnny Bristol & Jackey Beavers for Harvey Fuqua’s Tri-Phil label, before Bristol and Fuqua went to work for Motown. Perhaps it should have been included in the list below: discuss.


Things you need to know. This time: Motown stars sing non-Motown songs

(ranked by chart peak on the Billboard Hot 100*)

1)    “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES & THE TEMPTATIONS (2)

2)    “Rockin’ Robin,” MICHAEL JACKSON (2)

3)    “Blowin’ In The Wind,” STEVIE WONDER (9)

4)    “We Can Work It Out,” STEVIE WONDER (13)

5)    “Little Bitty Pretty One,” THE JACKSON 5 (13)

6)    “River Deep, Mountain High,” THE SUPREMES & THE FOUR TOPS (14)

7)    “Walk Away Renée,” THE FOUR TOPS (14)

8)    “Corner Of The Sky,” THE JACKSON 5 (18)

9)    “The Nitty Gritty,” GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS (19)

10)   “If I Were A Carpenter,” THE FOUR TOPS (20)

(*Ties broken by weeks in Top 10/Top 40)