Grammatical Mistake In Classic Motown Song

Categories: Diana Ross

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With Motown The Musical in previews on Broadway, I'm reminded of one of my all-time favorite Supremes songs, "Reflections."

Actually, it was the first song released under the new billing Diana Ross & the Supremes in 1967, and though troubled Supreme Florence Ballard was on the record, she was way gone by time they performed it on TV. (See below.)

The record came out when the trio was exploring not only their new identity, but darker territory and different sounds. The song's tale of haunting sorrow is accompanied by a sad sounding tambourine at the outset and later some psychedelic synthesizer beeps that make the tune completely novel in an almost sci-fi way. And Diana's vocals shimmer throughout with a gorgeous sense of regret.

But much as I adore songwriters Holland/Dozier/Holland, I've always had a problem with one of the lyrics:

"Just a handful of promises are all that's left of loving you."

Huh? I majored in English and have a nagging feel that since the object of the sentence is "handful," not "promises," it should end with "is all that's left of loving you."

But who cares? I don't want to turn into one of those annoying grammar trolls, picking apart great work from the golden days. Besides, I love the quirks of Motown songs. One of my favorite lyrics is from the Supremes' "Love Is Here And Now You're Gone":

"But instead of tenderness, I found heartache instead."

The repetition is so nutty I couldn't imagine anything instead.

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12 comments
scruff712
scruff712

yes, but i was always proud that in come see about me, the lyrics say "no peace shall I find" which is one of the few examples in the rock era where the correct verb form is used. it's usually i will, which is incorrect.

nostradavid
nostradavid

"GOING DOWN FOR THE THIRD TIME" - best subtitle ever. 

I agree with Norma on the grammar issue. Also, "are" just sounds better. 

normadesmond
normadesmond

i have always been & will always be a grammar moron. yes, i've read about this type of faux pas before....for me, it isn't one because a "handful" implies many in the hand, hence i would follow it up with are.


again, moron here. i suppose i've helped destroy the world in my own small way, thank you. as for miss ross & the girls, at this time, i was in perpetual swoon and there was no snapping me out of it.

williamHK
williamHK

Rock and pop songs don't need to be gramatically coreect, that's why it's rock and roll, it's music for the people, by the people.   This musical is gonna suck, big time, someone said they should just bag the plot and make it a concert. 

jackson30
jackson30 topcommenter

God I love Diana so much.

SavannahMontgomery
SavannahMontgomery

Oh, I remember when this came out...my girls gone "hippy!"  That trippy music at the beginning...then the beat kicked in...ahh..."Thru the mirror of my mind, time after time...".  Then came "Love Child" and the "non-glamour" album cover...then it was the Temptations turn..."Psychedelic Shack"...but by that point I'd "turned" as well...and my all-time fave "Poppa Was A Rolling Stone"...the long version....you can't top that hypnotic syncopated bass-line.

SavannahMontgomery
SavannahMontgomery

and this is from a child who learned to do the "Bossa Monkey" watching Murray The K on TV in the Bronx to the tune of "Back In My Arms Again".

SavannahMontgomery
SavannahMontgomery

and while I'm on the subject...I was always a Mary Wilson fan, even then.  She was "the girl next door" in my mind.

jackson30
jackson30 topcommenter

I love these ruminations. Genius.

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