The Four Tops - Reach Out I'll Be There (1966) from the album The Ultimate Collection

The Four Tops - Reach Out I'll Be There (1966) from the album The Ultimate Collection




"Reach Out I'll Be There" (also formatted as "Reach Out (I'll Be There)") is a 1966 song recorded by the Four Tops for the Motown label. Written and produced by Motown's main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland, the song is one of the most well-known Motown tunes of the 1960s and is today considered The Tops' signature song. It was the number one song on the Rhythm & Blues charts for two weeks, and on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks, from October 15–22, 1966. It replaced "Cherish" by The Association, and was itself replaced by "96 Tears" by Question Mark & the Mysterians. Billboard ranked the record as the no. 4 song for 1966.

Rolling Stone later ranked this version #206 on their list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". This version is also currently ranked as the 56th best song of all time, as well as the #4 song of 1966, in an aggregation of critics' lists at Acclaimed Music.

Written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, partly inspired by Burt Bacharach and Hal David as well as Bob Dylan, featuring an interesting array of instruments and one of the finest vocals ever captured within the Hitsville Studio; Reach Out I'll Be There had all the ingredients necessary to make it a sure-fire smash, yet its eventual release seems to have hinged on a casting vote from Berry Gordy! The Four Tops had suffered a slight tailing off after the massive success of I Can't Help Myself, with the Ivy Jo Hunter and Stevie Wonder penned Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever barely scraping the Top 50 in May 1966.

Influenced by the classical music Lamont Dozier had listened to as a youngster and largely crafted by Lamont and Brian Holland, Reach Out may well have followed the tried and trusted HDH formula in utilising bits and pieces of earlier work but stands out on its own thanks to the distinct feel. This was achieved by utilising a variety of instruments not previously heard, such as the flute (played on the session by the thirteen year old Dayna Hartwick, who had to be carried into the studio as she had a broken leg at the time; she would later appear on Marvin Gaye's What's Going On) and a unique percussive effect achieved by tapping hands on a wooden chair.

The end result was unlike anything HDH had produced before, a sound that some thought too much of a departure, including a couple of The Four Tops and many of those present at the Quality Control meeting when the single was first played. Whilst Smokey Robinson was against releasing it, Berry Gordy had the final say and ordered it released in August 1966. It turned out to be The Four Tops biggest ever hit, topping the R&B charts and pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic, helped in the UK by the presence of the group on a nationwide tour. Later cover versions came from Gloria Gaynor (#60 in the US and #14 in the UK in 1975) and Michael Bolton (#73 in the US and #37 in the UK in 1993).

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