(SR) # Dancing in the Street

Dancing in the Street
Artist # Martha and the Vandellas
Writers # Marvin Gaye, William Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter
Year # 1964
Genre # Soul

A call to a riot or an invitation to party down the streets?

Dancing in the Street was released on July 31, 1964 and was initially excluded of the radio stations’ playlists as a potential call to a civil rights protest. However, as Stevenson claimed, the idea for the song came while riding with Marvin Gaye through Detroit, where fire hydrants were opened to cool off summer heat. Years later, in an interview to the British press, Martha Reeves (of Martha and the Vandellas) would be asked whether she was a militant leader and about the political connotations of the song. In retrospect, she explicitly answered “My Lord, it was a party song.”

However the initial conception or intentions, the tune was heavily associated with the Watts riots in LA, August 1965, and the Detroit riots of July 1967. Thereafter, Dancing in the Street would enter the soundscape of the Civil Rights Movement and represent –among other tunes – Motown’s most political and social agenda.

 Read: Dancing in the Street – Motown and the cultural politics of Detroit , Suzanne E. Smith (1999)

Callin'out around the world,
are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer's here and the time is right
for dancin'in the street.
Dancin' in Chicago (dancin' in the street)
Down in New Orleans (dancin' in the street)
In New York City

All we need is music, sweet music,
There'll be music everywhere
There'll be swingin' swayin', and records playin,
Dancin' in the street

Oh it doesn't matter what you wear,
just as long as you are there
So come on every guy, grab a girl,
Everywhere, around the world

There'll be dancin', they're dancin' in the street.
This is an invitation, across the nation,
A chance for folks to meet.
There'll be laughin' singin', and music swingin'
Dancin' in the street

Philadelphia P.A., Baltimore and D.C now,
Can't forget the motor city,
All we need is music, sweet music
There'll be music everywhere
There'll be swingin' swayin', and records playin,
Dancin' in the street

They're dancin', dancin' in the street
Way down in L.A., every day they're dancin' in the street
Lets form a big strong line, and get in time,
We're dancin' in the street.
Across the ocean blue, me and you
We're dancin n the street

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