Martha & the Vandellas – Heatwave

Written by the Motown songwriting team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, this was the first Top 10 hit for Martha & the Vandellas, whose lead singer, Martha Reeves, started as a secretary at Motown. Heatwave is a powerful song that has been covered by many artists but this one remains my favorite. This song peaked at #4 in the Billboard 100 and #12 in Canada in 1964.

Martha & the Vandellas became the first Motown group ever to receive a Grammy Award nomination when this song was nominated in 1964 for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording; it lost to Ray Charles’ hit “Busted.”

From Songfacts

“Heat Wave” was the group’s second hit written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, following “Come and Get These Memories.” It was also one of the first songs to create the style of music that would be known as the “Motown Sound.”

In this song, Reeves sings about a guy who turns her on so much that her temperature rises when he’s around. Like many of Motown’s hits, it’s a light and amorous pop song.

Many of the jaunty songs Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote at Motown are underpinned with heartbreaking lyrics, often inspired by real-life breakups. This one is more congruent and less personal. Lamont Dozier explained: “It was summertime and hot and sticky in Detroit. I often sat at the piano and played a warm-up riff to get my day started. This one particular day the heat was over the top and I was watching tv and the weatherman said we had a record-breaking five-day heat wave that was not going to let up. So all this funky riff needed was for me to throw a girl into the mix and this song was born.”

Whoopi Goldberg sang this in the 1992 film Sister Act.

Linda Ronstadt reached US #5 in 1975 with her cover version, which was the first single from her album Prisoner In Disguise. It was a song her band had been pushing her to perform; they finally did at a gig in Long Island when they kept getting called back for encores and ran out of material. Recording it was a challenge; Ronstadt’s producer Peter Asher tried it with a few different sets of musicians before getting the take he liked with Andrew Gold on drums and Ronstadt’s Stone Poneys bandmate Kenny Edwards on bass. Gold then overdubbed guitars, piano and an ARP string synthesizer. Asher added four tracks of hand claps.

Artists who have covered this song include Lou Christie, the Jam, Joan Osborne, the Supremes, and The Who.

Heat Wave

Heat wave
Heat wave

Whenever I’m with you
Something inside
Starts to burn deep
And my heart’s filled with fire
Could be that I’m very sentimental
Or is this just the way love’s supposed to be?

I got a heat wave
Burning in my heart
I can’t keep from crying
Tearing me apart

Sometimes she calls my name
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can’t explain
I feel, yeah I feel
I feel this burning flame
This high blood pressure’s got a hold on me
‘Cause this is the way love’s supposed to be

I got a heat wave
Burning in my heart
I can’t keep from crying
Tearing me apart

Oh yeah
Oh yeah

Oh yeah
Oh yeah

Just give me another chance
This could be a new romance

Heat wave
Heat wave
Heat wave
Heat wave