The greatest songwriting combination of the post-Porter era, Holland-Dozier-Holland perfected a verse-chorus-verse songcraft so seamless that you shouldn’t be able to spot the hyphens in this sentence. Artists from Vanilla Fudge to Soft Cell have been taking these songs apart, wondering why they work like mad. Helping this trio was the most powerful and most identifiable stable of singers in pop history. I could fill this list to surfeit with Supremes and Marvin Gaye numbers, and whenever Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops jabs at syllables with his sharp broomstick of a voice I wonder whether he wasn’t the era’s greatest singer, period. Diana Ross, a less powerful singer, nevertheless owns this list — a performer who could no more stand outside herself and examine her motives than Simon Le Bon write sentences with subject-verb-object structures. No wonder Kim Wilde remade “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” as hi-NRG; the original is hi-Hysteria.
In this list, I’ve included a few hits when they are apart or collaborations (even with Norman Whitfield’s name in the credits and in the grit all over its tread, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” has the flow of an H-D-H track).
1. The Supremes – You Keep Me Hangin’ On
2. Marvin Gaye – Can I Get a Witness
3. The Four Tops – Reach Out I’ll Be There
4. Martha and the Vandellas – Heat Wave
5. The Supremes – You Can’t Hurry Love
6. Martha and the Vandellas – Nowhere to Run
7. Freda Payne – Band of Gold
8. The Chairmen of the Board – Give Me Just a Little More Time
9. The Temptations – Ain’t Too Proud to Beg
10. The Supremes – Stop! in the Name of Love”
11. The Isley Brothers – This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)
12. The Temptations – (I Know) I’m Losing You
13. The Marvelettes – Please Mr. Postman
14. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go?
15. Dionne Warwick – You’re Gonna Need Me
16. Johnny Rivers – Baby I Need Your Loving
17. The Miracles – (Come ‘Round Here) I’m the One You Need
18. The Supremes – You Can’t Hurry Love
19. Jr. Walker & the All-Stars – (I’m a) Road Runner
20. Chris Clark – Whisper You Love Me Boy