Did Motown Know Anything About Adultery?

Cover Image: By Motown/Tamla Records-photographer-James Kriegsmann, New York (Billboard page 13) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Did the Motown artists that sang about infidelity ever actually get cheated on?

I get it. You break up with someone and you go through different levels of sadness. But with infidelity it isn’t just levels. There is an edge to that type of break-up.

A break-up caused by infidelity requires…stages.

This post describes 7: shock, denial, obsession, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

The Motown artists seem to have never gone through any of those…or maybe they just got stuck in denial.

Take “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James for example:

I would rather, I would rather go blind boy
Than to see you, walk away from me, child, oh, oooh
So you see I love you so much
That I don’t want to watch you leave me baby

Or “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye:

Losin’ you would end my life you see
‘Cause you mean that much to me
You could have told me yourself
That you loved some one else
Instead I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine

Or finally, Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine“:

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And she’s always gone too long
Anytime she goes away
Wonder this time where she’s gone
Wonder if she’s gone to stay
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

Now don’t get me wrong, these are all excellent songs. I spent yesterday morning listening to a Motown playlist on Spotify as I got my daughter ready for the bus, and made coffee.

But my ex-wife’s adultery had me singing very different songs. See an earlier post (Top 5 Dark and Angry “Break-up” Songs) for the details. I was not singing about going blind, or dying, or begging her to come back.

Maybe I was stuck in anger a little longer than was healthy. Maybe infidelity brings out different emotions in successful musicians.

Or maybe this explains why a different Motown song, “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations is my favorite. It does a good job of capturing what infidelity can do to a family.

What song lyric captures the trauma of adultery for you?

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