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.
Infographic: The Great Migration
Detroit experienced an influx of African Americans from the south during both waves of the Great Migration. Take a look at this infographic that illustrates the dramatic changes in population and employment in and around Detroit during this movement. (Click the image to enlarge.)
Artifact: Martha and the Vandellas Concert Poster (1969)
Describe what you see.
What do you observe?
This concert took place in Wolverhampton, England. What does this tell us about the popularity of Martha and the Vandellas? What does this reveal about the international appeal of girl groups—and of Motown acts and American popular music in the 1960s, in general?
Consider the collection of artists presented. What do you know about the other musical acts? What can you find out about the other musical acts?
Given the information provided on the concert poster, can you envision the concert itself? What would it be like to be in the audience? What would you see? What would you hear?