“Baby Love” by The Supremes
Researchers have been able to deduce that there was an actual musical formula Motown utilized during the 1960s, when the longstanding label was at the height of its popularity and influence. They were probably first put on to this idea by The Supremes’ Mary Wilson, who in 2014 stated that said procedure consisted of “music [that] is beautiful”, yet “the words are stories about life and hurt”.
And such is the case with “Baby Love”. Here, we have Miss Diana chiming like a songbird, and the whole affair is quite jovial acoustically. However, if you’re able to get past the phrase “baby love”, which is featured in almost every passage, then the wording actually reveals, unlike said impressions implies, that the singer is not celebrating love. Rather she is reeling from having her heart broken – an act that was committed by the selfsame “baby love”.
However, the reason she continues to refer to him via such an endearing term is because she is still in love. And she expresses the types of emotions you would expect of someone in such a predicament. For instance, the narrator is left wondering what it is she did wrong to drive her lover away.
She also feels that instead of “breaking up” they should rather ‘kiss and make up’. Indeed the addressee, i.e. “baby love”, is the love of her life. So accordingly in his absence she misses him dearly and verily expresses a “need” for his affection. And overall she is in a great deal of emotional duress due to his actions. So conclusively, she is entreating him ‘not to throw their love away’.
So “baby love” is in fact a term of endearment, as one would logically presume. But unfortunately the way this sweet-sounding individual is treating (i.e. avoiding) the singer, from her perspective, is less-than-ideal, even having a devastating effect on her emotionally.
Who wrote “Baby Love”?
The writers and producers of this song, Lamont Dozier and the Holland brothers (Edward, the senior and Brian, the younger). Collectively they are known as Holland-Dozier-Holland, the primary musicians who were actually behind the 1960s’ Motown sound.
And on this particular track they were inspired by Motown head honcho Berry Gordy to emulate another Supremes’ hit that they had worked on just prior, “Where Did Our Love Go” (the song).
Said single came out right before “Baby Love”. And the way Berry Gordy exerted his will was by having The Supremes and co. record this track quite a few times in order to get it to his liking. In other words, there is an earlier version of this song which Gordy actually pulled from “Where Did Our Love Go” (the album) so that the musicians involved could redo it.
And this original-original, which by all accounts is inferior to that which was actually released, was eventually made public as part the “Where Did Our Love Go” 40th anniversary edition.
Date of Release
This track was released by Motown on 17 September 1964, with its B-side being a song entitled “Ask Any Girl”. And it is the fifth single from “Where Did Our Love Go”, The Supremes’ record-breaking second album.
Success on the Charts
The aforementioned album was the first album in Billboard history to score three number ones on the Hot 100. And this track, along with “Comes See About Me” and the album’s title track, was amongst those three singles.
And for the record, “Baby Love” remained on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for a duration of four weeks. This was the longest any Supremes’ song has held down that position.
The track also topped what in more recent times is referred to as the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. And it likewise reached number one on the Cash Box and Record World pop and R&B charts, eventually being certified gold in the United States (i.e. a million copies sold). And it performed similarly across the pond, as in also scoring a number one on the UK Singles Chart.
When The Supremes accomplished that latter feat, they became the first Motown group ever to reach number one in the UK. And it has also been put forth that they were the first all-female group to ever top the chart. However, for whatever reason, that information has proven quite difficult to verify.
As an interesting side note, The Supremes actually topped the Billboard Hot 100 with five-consecutive singles from late-1964 into 1965. This song was second on that list, being preceded by “Where Did Our Love Go”. And the number ones that came afterwards, successively, were as follows:
- “Come See About Me” (1964)
- “Stop! In the Name of Love” (1965)
- “Back in My Arms Again” (1965)
One of the Industry’s Greatest
This track has also made it onto Rolling Stone’s comprehensive “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” ranking. Additionally, “Baby Love” was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1965 in the category of Best Rhythm & Blues Recording (being bested by “How Glad I Am” by Nancy Wilson).
Famous Appearances of “Baby Love”
“Baby Love” also made it onto the soundtrack of the classic African-American comedy film “Cooley High” (1975). And other flicks in which this song made an appearance include Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), Jackie Brown (1997) as well as a number of popular television shows such as the following:
- Vampire Diaries
- Murphy Brown
- Beverly Hills, 90210
Recording of “Baby Love”
Instrumentally this is yet another song in which The Supremes were backed up by The Funk Brothers, a group of musicians who was part and parcel of the Motown sound of the 1960s. And it is one of their members, Mike Terry (1940-2008), who performs the saxophone solo on it.
The instrumental of this song features actual foot stomping. This part of the track was led by the late Mike Valvano, who was once a member of his own Motown crew called Mike & the Modifiers.
For the record, there are 68 mentions of the word “baby” in the lyrics.
Motown actually got into a bit of legal beef over this track. This was due to a musician named Lorenzo Pack suing them for copying a song he came out with in 1962 called “I’m Afraid” onto “Baby Love”. However, the court ruled in Motown’s favor.
In fact Lamont Dozier has stated that lyrically the track is actually about his “first love who (he) never really got over”. And during the trial, he asserted that Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote the tune specifically to be sung by The Supremes.
At first The Supremes weren’t too keen on recording this song. According to Mary Wilson, they considered it to be “too sweet and bubblegum”.
At the release of this track, The Supremes were led by Diana Ross who was backed up by Mary Wilson (1944-2021) and Florence Ballard (1943-1976).