Saturday, October 15, 2016

50 years ago: The Four Tops "Reach" #1

Reach Out (I’ll Be There)

The Four Tops

Writer(s): Brian Holland/Lamont Dozier/Eddie Holland (see lyrics here)

Released: August 18, 1966

First Charted: September 3, 1966

Peak: 12 US, 11 CB, 2 HR, 12 RB, 13 UK, 6 CN, 62 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.2 UK, 1.2 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 12.7 video, 89.59 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The famed writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland cranked out many a hit for Motown Records but even in such a “strictly defined, even formulaic context,” MA much of what they “created... was brilliant, and now and then, as on this record, it was pure genius.” PW This is “one of the best of all the Motown productions” JA and a song to match “anything in the history of rock and roll.” MA

In his captivating baritone, Tops’ lead singer Levi Stubbs belts “reach out” with a religious fervor “like a great preacher who can make merely reading the gospel a creative act.” MA Supposedly, H-D-H instructed Stubbs to sing like Bob Dylan on “Like a Rolling Stone.” SF Apparently it showed; famed producer Phil Specctor described the song, the Four Tops’ second #1 on the pop charts, as “black Dylan.” RS500

In the fall of 1966, Motown was concerned because the Tops’ last two hits had barely cracked the top 20. TB One Motown exec concluded that “Reach Out” wouldn’t sell because it was “too different.” TB Even the Four Tops, who nailed the song in just two takes, SF assumed it was just a throwaway album cut. However, Motown founder Berry Gordy disagreed, telling the Tops to prep “for the biggest hit of their career.” FB Gordy’s instincts for hits were uncanny, and he definitely got this one right. The song went to #1 on the pop and R&B charts in the U.S. and was a #1 in the UK as well.


  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Four Tops
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 209.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 163.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 5.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (2004). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SF Songfacts
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA.
  • PW Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. Page 101.

First posted 9/3/2011; last updated 4/16/2022.

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