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Best Cover Version of Dancing in the Street (Music Monday)

Original Artist: Martha and the Vandellas
Cover Version by: The Dick Carpenter Trio (a.k.a. The Carpenters)

Opens up with bright magnificent brass sounds, founded on exhilarating drumming by Marvin Gaye—who was also one of the song writers, and with simple yet harmonically stunning back-up from the Vandellas, Martha Reeves’ exquisite lively vocals really speak out what the lyrics say and invite the listeners to do just that: dancing. This song has become one of (early) Motown’s signature songs and Rolling Stone magazine has ranked the Martha and the Vandellas' original version at #40 in their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list—it’s not that it really matters but it reflects how important Dancing in the Street is out of gazillion of songs through the decades.

Released in 1964, amid the tumultuous political and social events in the United States especially regarding the racial issue, many African-American activists considered the song as a “civil rights anthem to social change.” Though in reality the song was intended to be a simple dance song and Martha Reeves herself once proclaimed to a British journalist that “it was a party song,” some people interpreted the song lyrics as a call to riot and played it when they’re holding a demonstration, which made some radio stations take it off their play lists.

Regardless of the different views on the meaning, it is still a revolutionary song in terms of its music that has pioneered 70s disco. But above all, in and on itself Dancing in the Street is a magnificent song and quoting Martha Reeves, “It's a song that just makes you want to get up and dance”!
The Original Version

On June 22, 1968, Richard and Karen Carpenter made their television debut in a talent show program called “Your All American College Show”. They performed as The Dick Carpenter Trio—with Karen on drums and vocals, Richard on electric piano, and a bass player whose name sounds difficult to pronounce—and the song they played was a jazzy cover version of Dancing in the Street.

There’s a big possibility that it was Richard who rearrange the song, as he was the arranger of most of The Carpenters’ songs, and the trio gave a complete makeover to the song: a simplification in its instrumentation but with more complex notes especially in the solo parts and fills. There are no extravagant horns and no harmonic backing vocals, but with such accomplished musicianship the trio successfully delivered a wholly distinct version that is delightful and enjoyable nonetheless.
Awesome jazzy cover version

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