‘Tear It On Down’: Martha Sings Marvin As The Vandellas Bow Out

The track was the final single to carry the name of Martha Reeves & the Vandellas.

Published on

Martha & the Vandellas 'Black Magic' artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Martha & the Vandellas 'Black Magic' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

The final single to carry the name of Martha Reeves & the Vandellas was released on May 23, 1972. It’s a lesser-known Motown gem, both in that version and Marvin Gaye’s original.

The Ashford & Simpson composition “Tear It On Down” was first assigned to the Marvelettes, but was then cut for Gaye’s 1968 album In The Groove. That LP itself had an unusual history because it was renamed after his massive singles success, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” Along with his version, the album also included Gaye’s 45s “You” and “Chained,” but “Tear It On Down” was not chosen for single release by Motown.

Click to load video

Four years on, the chart career of Reeves & the Vandellas was winding down. With hindsight, it had been doing so since their 1967 success “Honey Chile,” even if 1971 brought Top 30 R&B hits in “Bless You” and “In And Out Of My Life.” The following March, Black Magic would become their final album, and the group called it a day after a farewell concert at the end of 1972.

Reeves struggled to come to terms with Motown’s new direction, and indeed location, remaining in Detroit when the company moved to Los Angeles. She eventually signed with MCA as a solo artist, winning critical if not commercial acclaim. Back in 1972, “Tear It On Down” echoed the final days of the Supremes with Diana Ross.

Click to load video

Just as Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong didn’t appear with Ross on her last single with the group, “Someday We’ll Be Together,” the Vandellas of the early 70s (Sandra Tilley and Reeves’ sister Lois) weren’t on “Tear It On Down” at all. Nevertheless, with vocals recorded by Reeves in L.A. and backed by a B-side version of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” it became the group’s final chart entry.

Listen to the Best Motown Songs Ever playlist, with over two hours of the label’s greatest performers.

Even if it reached only No.37 R&B, “Tear It On Down” is well worth investigating, in both versions. Gaye takes it at his familiar but unique sophisticated smooth soul lick, whereas Reeves gives it a gritty, gospel-flavoured treatment, arranged by Paul Riser, that deserved a much wider audience.

Buy or stream “Tear It On Down” on Martha Reeves & the Vandellas’ Black Magic album.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

uDiscover Music - Back To Top
uDiscover Music - Back To Top