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Best Breakup Songs (Motown Edition)

Authored by Brett Knickerbocker in Music
Published on 07-27-2009

Nothing can ease the pain of heartache better than music. When troubles of the heart rear their ugly head, it always helps to know that other people have shared the same feeling. Personally, whenever I’m feeling blue I throw on nothing but classic Motown. There’s just something about the soul, the heart of the music, that feels true. Smokey Robinson or Eddie Ruffin sing about love and heartache like they know what they’re singing: they’ve felt the pain of the words they croon. Many artists in many different genres have written brilliant breakup songs in the years since Motown’s hey-day, but a lot of them lack the soulful earnestness of Stevie Wonder or Diana Ross. So if you’ve just gone through a breakup, or are going through one right now, listen to some of these songs. I promise you’ll feel emotionally validated, and maybe even a little uplifted.

The Temptations – “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”: This 1966 hit for the original Temptations lineup is the ultimate song of desperation. Lead singer David Ruffin pleads for forgiveness and lists off the lengths to which he’ll go to regain his love.

Jackson 5 – “Who’s Lovin’ You”: Written by Smokey Robinson and performed by dozens of artists, the Jackson 5 are responsible for the most famous version. Hard to believe that Michael Jackson was only 10 years old when he recorded this soulful song of regret.

Smokey Robinson and The Miracles – “The Tracks of My Tears”: This classic song finds lead singer and songwriter Smokey Robinson the ultimate heartbroken man trying to cover up his sadness. Everything looks fine on the outside but “inside my hope is fading”, sings Robinson.

Bill Withers – “Ain’t No Sunshine”: Though not technically a song under the Motown heading, this Bill Withers classic has plenty of soul. A perfect breakup song for the man who just got out of a relationship with the sunshine of their life (thanks Mr. Wonder).

The Temptations – “I Wish It Would Rain”: Another weather-themed tale of woe, this Temptations hit finds David Ruffin hoping for a rainstorm to hide the tears on his face. With some of the most painful lyrics in Motown history, the song also features storm sound effects to really set the melancholy mood.

The Supremes – “Where Did Our Love Go?”: The first Supremes song to hit the number one spot, this tune is a foot-stomping ode to every relationship that seems worth chasing until you actually get what you want. Diana Ross sings in her lower register, making the song much more sensual and personal.

Martha and The Vandellas – “Nowhere to Run”: Both a breakup song and a pre-relationship song, “Nowhere to Run” will strike a chord with anyone who has ever yearned for a relationship that might not be good for them.

Marvin Gaye – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”: A pre-breakup song for those partners with a cheating heart. Marvin Gaye’s absolute classic talks about the ache of knowing that the one you’re with might not only be with you.

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