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Dancing in the Street

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Dancing in the Street"
Single by Martha and the Vandellas
from the album Dance Party
B-side"There He Is"
ReleasedJuly 31, 1964 (US)
FormatVinyl record (7" 45 RPM)
RecordedJune 19, 1964, Hitsville U.S.A. (Studio A), Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
G 7033
Producer(s)William "Mickey" Stevenson
Martha and the Vandellas singles chronology
"In My Lonely Room"
"Dancing in the Street"
"Wild One"

"Dancing in the Street" is a song written by Marvin Gaye, William "Mickey" Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter. It first became popular in 1964 when recorded by Martha and the Vandellas whose version reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and peaked at No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart. It is one of Motown's signature songs and is the group's premier signature song. A 1966 cover by the Mamas & the Papas was a minor hit on the Hot 100 reaching No. 73. In 1982, the rock group Van Halen took their cover of "Dancing in the Street" to No. 38 on the Hot 100 chart and No. 15 in Canada on the RPM chart. A 1985 duet cover by David Bowie and Mick Jagger charted at No. 1 in the UK and reached No. 7 in the US. The song was also covered by The Kinks, Grateful Dead, Carpenters and Black Oak Arkansas.

Martha and the Vandellas original version


The original version of "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas was produced in 1964 by William "Mickey" Stevenson and released as a single on the Gordy Records label. The song was written by Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter, and Marvin Gaye. The song highlighted the concept of having a good time in whatever city the listener lived. The idea for dancing came to Stevenson from watching people on the streets of Detroit cool off in the summer in water from opened fire hydrants. They appeared to be dancing in the water.[1] The song was conceived by Stevenson who was showing a rough draft of the lyrics to Gaye disguised as a ballad. When Gaye read the original lyrics, however, he said the song sounded more danceable. With Gaye and Stevenson collaborating, the duo composed the single with Kim Weston in mind to record the song. Weston passed on the song and when Martha Reeves came to Motown's Hitsville USA studios, the duo presented the song to Reeves.

Reeves recounted that she initially regarded the song as too repetitive.[2] Gaye and Stevenson agreed and including new Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter adding in musical composition, the song was recorded in two takes. The song's writers made sure to include Detroit as one of the cities mentioned with the lyric: "Can't forget the Motor City".

Civil rights anthem

The song took on a different meaning when riots in inner-city America led to many young black demonstrators citing the song as a civil rights anthem to social change which also led to some radio stations taking the song off its play list because certain black advocates such as H. Rap Brown began playing the song while organising demonstrations.

"Dancing in the Street" had two meanings. The first is the one Martha Reeves asserted to reporters in England. "The British press aggravated Reeves when someone put a microphone in her face and asked her if she was a militant leader. The British journalist wanted to know if Reeves agreed, as many people had claimed, that "Dancing in the Street" was a call to riot. To Reeves, the query was patently absurd. 'My Lord, it was a party song,' she remarked in retrospect" (Smith 221). While Berry Gordy had created the Black Forum label to preserve black thought and creative writing, he kept the Motown record label and the popular hits it produced from being too political. "Berry Gordy Jr. was extremely wary about affiliating his business with any organization of movement that might negatively influence his company's commercial success" (Smith 230).

"Motown records had a distinct role to play in the city's black community, and that community—as diverse as it was—articulated and promoted its own social, cultural, and political agendas. These local agendas, which reflected the unique concerns of African Americans living in the urban north, both responded to and reconfigured the national civil rights campaign" (Smith 227). The movement lent the song its secondary meaning and the song with its second meaning fanned the flames of unrest. This song (and others like it) and its associated political meanings did not exist in a vacuum. It was a partner with its social environment and they both played upon each other creating meaning that could not have been brought on by one or the other alone. The song therefore became a call to reject peace for the chance that unified unrest could bring about the freedom that suppressed minorities all across the United States so craved.[3]


"Dancing in the Street" peaked at No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart when it was originally released as the group's third album Dance Party's first single in 1964 (see 1964 in music), with "There He Is (At My Door)" included as a B-side. It was kept from the top spot by, "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" by Manfred Mann.[4]"Dancing in the Street" also reached the Top 5 on the UK Singles Chart peaking at No. 4 in a 1969 release after initially peaking at No. 28 on the chart and helped to revive the Vandellas' success in the UK.[5][6]

On April 12, 2006, it was announced that Martha and the Vandellas' version of "Dancing in the Street" would be one of 50 sound recordings preserved by the Library of Congress to the National Recording Registry. Lead singer Martha Reeves said she was thrilled about the song's perseverance, saying "It's a song that just makes you want to get up and dance".

In 2013, the original Motown recording was remixed for club and summer celebration airplay by Minneapolis' Billboard charting producer/remixer Joel Dickinson as well as Danny Shaffer.

Billboard named the song No. 29 on their list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.[7]


Chart performance

Weekly charts

Chart (1964) Peak
Canada RPM Top Singles[9] 3
UK Singles Chart 28
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[10] 2
U.S. Cash Box Top 100[11] 4

U.S. [{Cash Box R&B Charts}] 8

Chart (1969) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[12] 12
UK Singles Chart 4


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[14] Silver 212,000[13]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Year-end charts

Chart (1964) Rank
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[15] 17
U.S. Cash Box[16] 64

The Mamas and the Papas version

"Dancing in the Street"
Song by The Mamas and the Papas
from the album The Mamas & the Papas
ReleasedSeptember 12, 1966
GenreSunshine pop
  • Gaye
  • Stevenson
  • Hunter
Producer(s)Lou Adler


In 1966, the folk rock group, the Mamas & the Papas, recorded a cover version of the song "Dancing in the Street," which was taken from their second studio album The Mamas and the Papas. Mama Cass Elliot sang the lead vocal, while the other members did their harmonies in the background. This version featured an instrumental section. The song's ending is humorous, which featured Elliot and Papa Denny Doherty having a dialogue listing the cities in both the United States, as well as Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where Doherty was from, before the song's fade. At the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, the Mamas and the Papas ended their set with "Dancing in the Street" before Elliot told the audience at the festival: "You're on your own.""cause we're sure on ours." This was the last time that the group performed live in concert.

"Dancing in the Street" was produced by Lou Adler and issued as the B-side of the single "Words of Love" on the Dunhill Records label. It reached No. 73 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

In 1969, Cass Elliot covered the song on her television special, The Mama Cass Television Program.

Grateful Dead version

"Dancing in the Street"
Single by Grateful Dead
from the album Terrapin Station
A-side"Dancing in the Streets"
B-side"Terrapin Station"
Producer(s)Keith Olsen

The rock band Grateful Dead began performing "Dancing in the Street" live in 1966, and through 1971 played the song about 40 times,[17] with Bob Weir singing lead before the song was shelved for several years. The song returned to their rotation in 1976 with Bob Weir taking the lead vocal, and was played about 80 more times before being retired in 1987. Live recordings from both periods have been released. In that second period, the group recorded a cover version of the song in the studio, and released it as a single taken from their 1977 album Terrapin Station. This version is credited to Stevenson, Gaye, and Hunter, but is titled "Dancin' in the Streets" rather than "Dancing in the Street".

Bassist Phil Lesh has described "Dancing in the Street" as the first song the band stretched out in the live setting from a short pop song into drawn out improvisational jam piece, a practice that would become a Grateful Dead signature.[17][18][19]

Black Oak Arkansas version

"Dancing in the Street"
Single by Black Oak Arkansas
from the album "Street Party"
A-side"Dancing in the Street"
GenreSouthern rock, dance-rock
Producer(s)Tom Dowd

The American southern rock band Black Oak Arkansas recorded a cover version of "Dancing in the Street", and released it as a single in 1974, taken from their 1974 studio album Street Party.

Track listings

7" single (UK)

  1. "Dancing in the Street" – 2:34
  2. "Dixie" – 3:38

7" single (US)

  1. "Dancing in the Street" – 2:34
  2. "Dixie" – 3:38

[20] [21]

Van Halen version

"Dancing in the Street"
Van Halen - Dancing in the Street.jpg
Single by Van Halen
from the album Diver Down
B-side"Where Have All the Good Times Gone" and "The Full Bug"
ReleasedMay 1982
LabelWarner Bros.
Producer(s)Ted Templeman
Van Halen singles chronology
"(Oh) Pretty Woman"
"Dancing in the Street"


The American rock band Van Halen recorded a cover version of "Dancing in the Street" in 1982. This version features heavy use of the electric guitar, played by Eddie Van Halen. Speaking about the cover, group member David Lee Roth said: "It sounds like more than four people are playing, when in actuality there are almost zero overdubs—that's why it takes us such a short amount of time [to record]." Group member Eddie Van Halen, discussing the cover and discussing his synthesizer part in the track, said: "It takes almost as much time to make a cover song sound original as it does writing a song. I spent a lot of time arranging and playing synthesizer on 'Dancing in the Streets,' and they [critics] just wrote it off as, 'Oh, it's just like the original.' So forget the critics! These are good songs. Why shouldn't we redo them for the new generation of people?"


Van Halen released "Dancing in the Street" as the second single from their 1982 studio album Diver Down. Their version attracted decent commercial success, reaching the top 40 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and becoming a top 15 hit on the Canadian Singles Chart.

Chart performance

Chart (1982–1983) Peak
Canadian Singles Chart 15
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[10] 38
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 3


Track listings

7" single (Germany)

  1. "Dancing in the Street" – 3:43
  2. "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" – 3:02

7" single (U.S.)

  1. "Dancing in the Street" – 3:43
  2. "The Full Bug" – 3:18

David Bowie and Mick Jagger version

"Dancing in the Street"
BowieJagger DancingInTheStreet.jpg
Single by David Bowie and Mick Jagger
ReleasedAugust 12, 1985
Format7", 12"
RecordedAbbey Road Studios, London; June 29, 1985
David Bowie singles chronology
"Loving the Alien"
"Dancing in the Street"
"Absolute Beginners"
Mick Jagger singles chronology
"Just Another Night"
"Dancing in the Street"
"Let's Work"
Music video
"Dancing in the Street" on YouTube


A hit cover version of "Dancing in the Street" was recorded by the English rock icons Mick Jagger and David Bowie as a duo in 1985, to raise money for the Live Aid famine relief cause. The original plan was to perform a track together live, with Bowie performing at Wembley Stadium and Jagger at John F. Kennedy Stadium, until it was realized that the satellite link-up would cause a half-second delay that would make this impossible unless either Bowie or Jagger mimed their contribution, something neither artist was willing to do.

In June 1985, Bowie was recording his contributions to the Absolute Beginners soundtrack at Westside Studios with Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley, and so Jagger arranged to fly in to record the track there. A rough mix of the track was completed in just four hours on June 29 1985 [23]. Thirteen hours after the start of recording, the song and video were completed. Jagger arranged for some minor musical overdubs with Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero in New York City.

The single version (Bob Clearmountain mix) is slightly different to the version used on David Bowie's Best of Bowie compilation and others, with the vocals and guitar brought out more and a slightly shorter intro.


The David Bowie and Mick Jagger recording of "Dancing in the Street" was issued as a single on EMI, with all profits going to the charity. The song topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks, and reached No. 7 in the United States on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Bowie and Jagger would perform the song once more, at the Prince's Trust Concert on June 20, 1986. The song has been featured since on several Bowie compilations. In 1988, US TV network ABC used a sample of this song, to promote their 1988–1989 campaign, but under the name "Something's Happening", which is the second year they used the same name, the first time being for the 1987–1988 campaign.[24]

In 2011 it was voted the eighth-best collaboration of all time in a Rolling Stone readers poll.[25] In a survey conducted by PRS for Music, the song was voted as the top song the British public would play at street parties in celebration of the 2011 Royal Wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William.[26]

Music video

The pair went to Spillers Millennium Mills in London to film a video with director David Mallet. The music video was shown twice at the Live Aid event. It was also shown in movie theaters before showings of Ruthless People, for which Jagger had recorded the theme song.[27]

Track listings

7": EMI America / EA 204 United Kingdom

  1. "Dancing in the Street" (Clearmountain Mix) – 3:12
  2. "Dancing in the Street" (instrumental) – 3:17

12": EMI America / 12EA 204 United Kingdom

  1. "Dancing in the Street" (Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero Mix) – 4:40
  2. "Dancing in the Street" (dub version) – 4:41
  3. "Dancing in the Street" (edit) – 3:24


Chart performance

Myra version

"Dancing in the Street"
Single by Myra
from the album Myra
ReleasedJune 8, 2001
GenrePop, teen pop, dance-pop
LabelBuena Vista
Walt Disney Records
Avex Trax
Producer(s)Keith "K.C." Cohen / Executive Producers: Jay Landers and Matt Walker
Myra singles chronology
"Dancing in the Street"
"Miracles Happen"

It was Myra's cover of "Dancing in the Street" for the 2001 Disney film Recess: School's Out that really sparked the first Latina Pop singer signed to Walt Disney Records.[52] She would then re-record the song in Spanish, titled "Bailando en la Ciudad", in 2002 for the Disney Channel original movie, Gotta Kick It Up! This version was also included on the Spanish edition of her debut album, "Milagros."

The English version of the cover song was accompanied by a music video directed by Scott Marshall and choreographed by Darrin Henson. The music video was shot against a black & white studio background in Los Angeles, California, with Myra and her background dancers dancing with a disc jockey playing music with records. Another version was made in which the video is interlaced with clips of the "Green Tambourine" closing sequence of the movie and Myra performing against a bluescreen displaying clips of the film; this version was featured at the end of the VHS release of the film.


"Street Fighting Man", a 1968 song from the Rolling Stones, slightly modifies a signature line from "Dancing in the Street" to be: "Summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street."[53]


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Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 30 June 2020, at 02:44
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