Coming off the Top 3 R&B hit “My Baby Loves Me,” which peaked just outside the Top 20 on the pop side, Martha & the Vandellas released “What Am I Going To Do Without Your Love.” On June 11, 1966, it entered the pop bestsellers – but missed the soul chart altogether.
The song was written by Motown regulars “Mickey” Stevenson and Sylvia Moy, and produced by Stevenson with Ivy Jo Hunter. It had a mid-tempo style that was unmistakably Tamla, and an orchestration augmented by an ever-dependable bassline from Funk Brother James Jamerson. But it proved to be a highly unusual mis-step with Martha and the girls’ soul audience, or perhaps more relevantly, with R&B radio programmers.
A disappointing peak
“What Am I Going To Do…,” released as a single on Gordy on May 19, entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No.84, and made a fairly promising ten-place climb the following week. But then it slipped to No.77 and, although it recovered for a new peak of No.71, that was as high as the song went. Motown released a Greatest Hits compilation by the group at the same time, which also charted on June 11 and hit No.6 on the R&B album chart – but didn’t include the current single.
The single’s B-side was “Go Ahead And Laugh,” a Stevenson/Hunter composition that was first cut by Mickey’s wife LaBrenda Ben, whose vocals were lost after Kim Weston recorded her take over the track. Weston’s version served as a B-side twice, to both “A Little More Love” and “I’m Still Loving You.”
Happily, all was well again when the next Martha & the Vandellas single came out in the autumn. “I’m Ready For Love” restored the group to the Top 10 on both charts, hitting No.9 pop and No.2 on the R&B countdown.
Buy or stream “What Am I Going To Do Without Your Love” on 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1962-1972.