Digital Classroom: Martha & the Vandellas, "Dancing in the Street"
"Dancing in the Street" (1964)
Martha and the Vandellas (inducted 1995) epitomized the Motown look and sound with lush vocal harmonies and impeccable presentation and choreography. "Dancing in the Street" (1964) appeared to be an innocuous song, urging listeners to dance to a brand new beat around the world. Honking saxophones accompany a driving tambourine and clapping while the close harmonies of the Vandellas support Martha Reeves' leading melody. Lyrically, music permeates cities and countries across the nation and around the globe as the infectious rhythms of the recording seem to beckon to dancers to pour out of their homes into the streets. The song, however, was released shortly after the Civil Rights Act was signed into effect, and fans and critics alike immediately projected its performance and recording as political acts. Imbued with multiple meanings, "Dancing in the Street" became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement without that intent from Martha and the Vandellas.