885 Greatest Songs By Women: #6, The Supremes - I Hear A Symphony (1965)

Along with my life-long obsession with The Beatles and my love of Southern California's Laurel Canyon sound Motown always possessed a big chunk of my heart during their powerhouse years of the 1960s.

The Detroit hit factory's biggest act was The Supremes, and in November 1965 Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard earned the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for the sixth time with "I Hear A Symphony."

On "Symphony" The Funk Brothers and composers Holland-Dozier-Holland took Motown productions to a whole new level. It's a good thing they did because Motown President, Berry Gordy, was angry that the trio's previous single, "Nothing But Heartaches" broke their streak of five consecutive chart toppers. It failed to reach the top ten, peaking only at #11.

Gordy then issued this directive, "We will release nothing less than Top Ten product on any artist; and because the Supremes' world-wide acceptance is greater than the other artists, on them we will only release number one records."

The 45 RPM disc was unique and had a very cool introduction that no top 40 disc jockey should have ever been allowed to talk over. It was part of a fresher and a more sophisticated arrangement than Motown hits of the mid-60s normally possessed. It returned the ladies to #1 at a time when their records were beginning to sound the same.

The single used one of my favorite musical devices. I've always had a soft spot for songs that begin softly and grow in intensity as they progress. Classical lovers familiar with Maurice Ravel's Bolero will know exactly what I mean, so will classic rock fans familiar with "Telegraph Road" by Dire Straits or Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." 

Here the trio sings the hit version of their song followed by a live 1965 performance on the TV show, Hullabaloo.