The year 2014 is bringing us many 50th anniversary dates from 1964. For San Francisco, it would be three years until the Summer of Love. While the Beatles were preparing to kick-off their first U.S. tour at the Cow Palace on August 19, an anthem for the unrest that was brewing across the country was released on July 31, 1964 by three singers from Gordy Records, a Motown label. Soon lots of people would be singing along with Martha and The Vandellas on what turned out to be their greatest hit song, “Dancing in the Street.” Here they are singing on Dick Clark’s “Bandstand.”
On May 19 and 20, 1967, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas were performing at the Fillmore Auditorium in the City just as the Summer of Love was heating up. In Detroit, Ms. Reeves hometown, on July 23, 1967, one of the deadliest race riots in U.S. history occurred, leaving 43 people dead and more than 2000 buildings destroyed. Scholars are still debating whether the “Dancing in the Street” song, co-written by Marvin Gaye, is just a party song or whether the lyrics were a reaction to the racial tensions over civil rights that were evident when the song was written in 1964.
Ms. Reeves will be 73-years-old this July. She is still performing and will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of the song with her, “Calling Out Around the World Tour.” Here is her Web site with the dates and places she will perform: http://www.missmarthareeves.com/
In 2011, Ms. Reeves was back in San Francisco to perform in a cabaret setting at the now-closed Rrazz Room. Here she is enjoying some singing and dancing with her audience. She begins by telling the crowd how many people have recorded this famous song. You can see her remind everyone that the song is still hers: