The Four Tops – Reach Out (I’ll Be There)

The Four Tops had 45 songs in the Billboard 100, 7 top ten hits, and 2 number one singles. This song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #1 in the UK, #6 in Canada in 1966.

The Motown songwriting team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland (Holland-Dozier-Holland) wrote this. Dozier explained: “Brian, Eddie and I often had discussions about what women really want most of all from a man, and after talking about some of our experiences with women, we all three agreed that they wanted someone to be there for them, through thick or thin, and be there at their beck and call! Thus this song was born.”

The Four Tops recorded this in just two takes and had practically forgotten about the song until it was released, assuming it was a throwaway album track. Motown boss Berry Gordy had other ideas and released it as a single. Gordy thought he heard a hit song and got this one right.

From Songfacts

Holland-Dozier-Holland team also produced the songs they wrote. For this one, they told lead singer Levi Stubbs to sing like Bob Dylan on “Like a Rolling Stone,” which explains the urgency in his lyrics. Phil Spector once described it as “black Dylan.”

This was one of many hits the Holland-Dozier-Holland team wrote for The Four Tops. Some of these songs sounded remarkably similar, but the Motown writers didn’t have time to start from scratch with every song, since they were expected to crank out lots of songs in a hurry. H-D-H averaged two or three songs a day and literally had to clock in to work. Lamont Dozier said in a 1984 interview with NME: “If we didn’t complete them at least we would start them. We would have parts of the songs, like hooks, or maybe parts of verse, so that at the end of the day we would have something accomplished. I guess that was primarily the reason for the success we had in such a short time. We were there eight or nine years and out of those years we racked up some 50 or 60 Top 20 records, 66 Top Ten… something like that.”

The line, “happiness is just an illusion” appeared in another Motown song that was on the charts at the same time: “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin. That one also rhymed “illusion” with “confusion.”

Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent sang backup. They later went on to form the successful vocal trio Dawn along with Tony Orlando.

This is a very difficult song to sing, something BeBe Winans learned when he performed it at a 2003 ceremony where Holland-Dozier-Holland were given a BMI Icon Award. “He had the hardest time singing it because it was switching keys and going to different places,” Lamont Dozier recalled to Songfacts. “But he finally got it. Some of those songs are awkward to sing and you have to be a great singer to sell it.”

Diana Ross recorded this for her 1971 album Surrender, taking the song to #29 in the US. Her version, which was produced by Ashford & Simpson, is drastically different from the Four Tops original. Ross sang it in a similar style to her 1970 hit, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” >>

This song has an interesting chart history in the UK: The original hit #1 in 1966, Gloria Gaynor took a disco version to #14 in 1975, a remix of the Four Tops version by the production team Stock, Aitken & Waterman went to #11 in 1988, and Michael Bolton’s version hit #37 in 1993.

It was just the second Motown song to hit #1 in the UK, following “Baby Love” by The Supremes, which reached the summit in 1964.

Reach Out (I’ll Be There)

Now if you feel that you can’t go on 
Because all of your hope is gone,
And your life is filled with much confusion 
Until happiness is just an illusion,
And your world around is crumblin’ down; 
Darling, reach out (come on girl, reach on out for me) 
Reach out (reach out for me.)
I’ll be there, with a love that will shelter you.
I’ll be there, with a love that will see you through.
I’ll be there to always see you through.

When you feel lost and about to give up 
‘Cause your best just ain’t good enough
And you feel the world has grown cold, 
And you’re drifting out all on your own, 
And you need a hand to hold:
Darling, reach out (come on girl, reach out for me) 
Reach out (reach out for me.)
I’ll be there, to love and comfort you, 
And I’ll be there, to cherish and care for you.
I’ll be there to love and comfort you.

I can tell the way you hang your head,
You’re without love and now you’re afraid
And through your tears you look around, 
But there’s no peace of mind to be found.
I know what you’re thinkin’, 
You’re alone now, no love of your own, 
But darling, reach out (come on girl, reach out for me) 
Reach out (reach out for me.)
Just look over your shoulder
I’ll be there, to give you all the love you need, 
And I’ll be there, you can always depend on me.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

11 thoughts on “The Four Tops – Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”

      1. It was so unexpected. I was heading to be late one night and heard one of their songs. To my amazement, they were on a small stage in a bar. I walked right up to the front and enjoyed the show… Awesome!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. It doesn’t get better than that…that is great. The closest I ever got in a concert was 10th row at a Dylan show…

        Liked by 1 person

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