TRACK OF THE WEEK
DAY & DATE: Number One on the Billboard Hot R&B Sides for the week ending Saturday, October 20, 1962.
SONGWRITER: Berry Gordy, Jr.
PRODUCER: Berry Gordy, Jr.
BACKSTORY: The classic Motown hits have been covered and revived by many artists over the decades, and some remakes have been commercially successful. Rare, though, is the Hitsville original which scorched the charts twice. The Contours’ “Do You Love Me” is one of those.
The five-man group’s signature song was written by Berry Gordy, and captured on tape in June 1962, at a time when the Motown founder had less and less time for creative work. His company was growing, and required attention to business. In ’61, the firm had reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 twice; the next year, six times. Moreover, Gordy had in January 1962 introduced a new label, one which bore his own name. He wrote and produced its first 45 release, “(You’re My) Dream Come True” by the Temptations.
Yet when Gordy had a new song mid-year for the Temps, they were nowhere in sight. “That’s how the Contours got their shot,” he wrote in his autobiography, To Be Loved. They had dropped by Hitsville after a record hop, when the boss was looking to cut vocals for “Do You Love Me.” He knew they were “eager, boisterous guys with dynamic, wild dance moves,” who became even more eager when he told them the Temptations couldn’t be found “and I wanted to use them.” The song’s lead lines required a strong voice: the Contours’ Billy Gordon filled the bill. “His screaming lead vocals sounded just like me,” recalled Gordy, “but stronger, better. The rest of the group added soulful, uninhibited background vocals.”
“Do You Love Me” was released June 29, 1962, on the Gordy label, and rapidly validated its namesake’s conviction that this was a smash. The week that the 45 topped the Billboard R&B charts, it also reached its No. 3 peak on the pop best-sellers. Soon afterwards, the Contours hit the road as part of the first “Motor Town Special,” with a week of shows at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., followed by dozens of dates up and down the Eastern seaboard from Boston to Miami through mid-December. The package tour’s line-up also included Marv Johnson, Mary Wells, the Supremes, the Miracles, and the Marvelettes.
In 1988, when “Do You Love Me” was featured in the soundtrack to the hit movie Dirty Dancing, the Contours’ original recording returned to the Hot 100, eventually twirling to No. 11 that summer. With original members Joe Billingslea and Sylvester Potts, a new version of the group performed nationwide as part of a “Dirty Dancing: The Concert Tour” package, with former Righteous Brother Bill Medley, Merry Clayton and Ronnie Spector, among others. The dancing continued.
REMAKES: “Do You Love Me” became a staple of rock & roll repertoire the world over soon after its 1962 release, and particularly in Britain. There, a cover battle broke out in ’63 between the Dave Clark Five and Brian Poole & the Tremeloes; the latter took their version all the way to Number One – the first time that a Motown song, albeit not the original, achieved that peak in the U.K. In America, the remakes also flowed thick and fast, from the Kingsmen to Paul Revere & the Raiders, from Wayne Kramer to David Hasselhoff. Even Bruce Springsteen included the number in his live set during the ’80s, combined with “Twist And Shout.” In 2002, Bootsy Collins funked his way through “Do You Love Me” with the help of surviving members of Motown’s in-house studio players, otherwise known as the Funk Brothers. That remake was part of Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, the 2002 movie tribute to the best band of musicians ever to assemble in Detroit.
FOOTNOTE: The same year that the Contours’ “Do You Love Me” took its second swing at the charts, Otis Williams of the Temptations reflected on that “almost” moment, 26 years earlier. “Unbeknownst to us,” he recalled in his 1988 memoir, Temptations, “Berry had written a song with us in mind. He looked all over, calling our houses, asking people where we were, but nobody knew, so he gave up.” Where was the group? In a holy house, as it happened, “watching the Harmonizing Four, the Highway QCs, and the Dixie Hummingbirds at King Solomon’s Church” in Detroit. Still, the Temptations were blessed soon enough, starting with “The Way You Do The Things You Do” in 1964. And – in a peculiar twist of fate – a post-“Do You Love Me” member of the Contours, Dennis Edwards, switched groups and joined the Temps in 1968. Evidently, dancing brings good luck.