Dancing In The Street — Martha And The Vandellas

No Words, No Song
5 min readJun 2, 2022
Photo by Nadim Merrikh on Unsplash

“Dancing In The Street” is a Motown classic. Written by Motown songwriting royalty and performed by Martha And The Vandellas (later known as Martha Reeves And The Vandellas), for whom it would become a signature song.

The songwriters of “Dancing In The Street” were Marvin Gaye, William “Mickey” Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter.

Although Marvin Gaye would achieve considerable fame of his own as a performer, he started out as a session drummer and occasional songwriter for Berry Gordy at Motown in the early 1960s. By 1964, when “Dancing In The Street” came out, he was well into his stride and having hit records of his own, although his first million-seller, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, didn’t come along until 1968.

William “Mickey” Stevenson was more of an A&R man and producer than a songwriter, although you’ll be familiar with songs he worked on like “It Takes Two” (a hit for Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston), Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted?” and “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” for Stevie Wonder.

Another of Stevenson’s claims on music industry history is that he played a major role in establishing and organising The Funk Brothers — Motown’s house band who played on all the best-known hits from one of the finest record labels of all time. For that alone, he should probably be entitled to the eternal thanks of every music fan in world.

Ivy Jo Hunter started out as a session keyboard player at Motown before going on to write songs and produce records for groups like The Four Tops, The Temptations and The Isley Brothers.

By the time “Dancing In The Street” was released in 1964, Martha And The Vandellas had also been around the Motown label for some years, in various guises, releasing the occasional unsuccessful single, performing backing vocals and (in Martha Reeves’ case) working in Motown’s offices as a secretary for a while.

However, their 1963 recording of the Holland-Dozier-Holland song “Heat Wave” took Martha And The Vandellas to Number Four on the Billboard Hot 100, after which they spent the remainder of the decade as one of Motown’s top acts and enjoyed a string of hits before breaking up in the early 1970s.

No Words, No Song

Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.