Soul Serenade - Rare Earth

When Rare Earth decided to cover “Get Ready” they weren’t fooling around. In fact, their version of the Temptations classic ran to over 21 minutes in length. There was a good reason for this extravagance however. The band simply didn’t have enough material to fill out their first Motown album.

The Detroit band got together in 1960 as the Sunliners. Two years later only sax player Gil Bridges and drummer Pete Rivera remained from the original lineup. The pair were soon joined by John Persh on bass. In 1966 guitarist Rod Richards and keyboard player Kenny James filled out the group, and after scuffling around in the club for a few years they became Rare Earth in 1968.

The renamed group got a deal with Verve Records and released an album called Dreams/Answers in 1968. The album didn’t do much business but the band got the attention of Motown Records who signed them to be the first group on a new imprint they were planning. It was at the band’s suggestion that Motown called the new label Rare Earth.

Rare Earth embed

They recorded their first album for the label, complete with the 21-minute version of “Get Ready,” but once again they weren’t getting a lot of attention. Then Rare Earth decided to release a single using the first three minutes of “Get Ready.” The single rocketed into the Top 10, reaching all the way up to #4. The hit single resulted in more attention for the Get Ready album too, which found its way into the Top 20.

“Get Ready” has an interesting history as a song. It was written by Smokey Robinson for the Temptations, and released as a single by Motown in 1966. The B-side was “Fading Away.” Eddie Kendricks sang lead on “Get Ready,” with some help from bass voice Melvin Franklin on the pre-chorus (“fe, fi, fo, fum … “). As always the Funk Brothers provided an immaculate track for the vocalists. Of particular note was drummer Benny Benjamin’s propulsive rhythm attack.

The Temptations single reached #29 on the pop chart, and that result scuttled Robinson’s role as producer and songwriter for the Temptations. His deal with Berry Gordy, Jr. called for a certain degree of success, and when “Get Ready” didn’t reach the designated level Norman Whitfield was brought in to produce the next Temptations single, a song Whitfield had written called “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Whitfield went on to produce numerous hits for the Tempts, including their psychedelic soul classics “Ball of Confusion,” “Cloud Nine,” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”

Rare Earth proved to be more than a one-hit wonder. Since one Temptations cover had done so well for them, they decided to try another. In 1970 they released their cover of “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” and it was another Top Ten success, reaching #7. Both covers did better than the Temptations originals.

Although Richards and James left the band in 1971, Rare Earth still wasn’t finished. That year they had another Top Ten hit with “I Just Want to Celebrate,” and reached the Top 20 with “Hey, Big Brother.” That was the end of their chart success, but Rare Earth made the move west with Motown in 1972, and continued recording into the ’90s with numerous lineup changes over the years.

Rare Earth continues to tour today, led by original member Gil Bridges.

About the Author

Ken Shane

Ken Shane lives in Narragansett, R.I. He is a freelance writer and far and away the oldest Popdose writer. In fact, he may be the oldest writer, period. He wants you to know that he generally does not share his colleagues' love for the music of the '80s, and he does not forgive them for loving it. (Ken passed away in November 2022. R.I.P. —Ed.)

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