By Jim Johnson

It was 39 years ago today (September 22nd, 1965) that The Supremes recorded their Number One hit, “I Hear A Symphony.” The song was written by Holland-Dozier-Holland — the team responsible for the group’s previous Number Ones, including “Back In My Arms Again,” “Baby Love,” and “Come See About Me.”

Prior to releasing “I Hear A Symphony,” the Supremes’ string of five straight Number Ones was broken when their single “Nothing But Heartaches” stalled at a disappointing Number 11. Co-writer Lamont Dozier recalled that the failure of that single to dent the Top Ten forced Motown founder Berry Gordy to look outside the songwriting team to find the Supremes next hit. That spurred the team into producing a future classic.

Dozier recalls that, “It was humiliating. . . it taught us humility (and) we started frantically looking for new ideas. . . Brian (Holland) was playing this melody. . . it was sounding sort of classical to me. . . Eddie (Holland) took it and ran with the lyrics.” “I Hear A Symphony” hit Number One on November 20th 1965. It remained in the top spot for two weeks.

  • Although Holland-Dozier-Holland were never too self-congratulatory with their many Motown successes, years after its release Brian Holland says that the lyrics to “I Heard A Symphony” actually reduced him to tears: “Only one song ever really got me. I talked to my brother about it years ago, it was ‘I Hear A Symphony.’ Somehow, I was coming out of a health club, and it was on the radio. And then I just start taking in the lyrics, (I) pulled over and my eyes started tearing up, y’know what I mean. There were some hell of a lyrics on that, man. ‘Cause it kept going on and building. What he did, he built upon top of emotion on top of emotion — which really got me. ‘I hear a symphony. . . as you talk to me. . . (laughs) as you touch me. . . as you. . .’ Y’know what I mean? You just build upon emotion and it really got to me.”
  • Former Supremes member Mary Wilson says that although she still enjoys performing many of the Supremes hits in concert, “I Hear A Symphony” is one she admits is too tough to sing: “I sing all of our songs, but some of them I can’t sing. Some of them were so much Diane (Diana Ross) songs — y’know, so much her –that it’s hard, ’cause I can’t sing ‘I Hear A Symphony.’ I mean, I try, but I just can’t sing it, and I just think that they were just such a match with Diane and Holland-Dozier-Holland.”

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