“Jimmy Mack” was the final Top 10 hit for the Vandellas in the United States, peaking at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967 and at #1 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.
The song, with lead vocal by Vandellas’ lead singer Martha Reeves, is narrated by a woman who longs for her boyfriend, named “Jimmy Mack”, to return to her. The narrator is being courted by another suitor, whom she notes “talks just as sweet as” her long-gone Jimmy, and hopes for him to return before her resistance is worn down.
The inspiration for this song came from a 1964 music industry awards dinner, which Lamont Dozier attended. At the ceremony the mother of the songwriter Ronnie Mack accepted an award for her son, who had recently died, for his composition He’s So Fine. Under pressure to come up with a hit for Reeves and the Vandellas, Dozier and the team penned this song in part a tribute to Mack the writer.
“Jimmy Mack” was originally recorded in 1964 when Annette Beard was still a part of the group. The song was shelved because the Motown Quality Control team felt the recording was not suitable for release with the Vietnam War going on. Like Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ later hit, “The Tears of a Clown”, “Jimmy Mack” was pulled from the vault two years later and released as a single in early 1967.
By that time, the Vietnam War had become a highly debated issue among the American public. Thus, Reeves’ sentiment that her “Jimmy Mack” return took on a different meaning for many listeners, particularly those stationed overseas.
“Jimmy Mack” was a success, peaking at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming the second and final Vandellas single to top the Billboard R&B chart. The song had been included on the Vandellas’ LP Watchout!, issued a month before the single release. For nearly forty years, “Jimmy Mack” was presented in either monaural sound or in a mix culled from an alternate take. A true stereo mix of the original single master was not done until 2006, for the compilation Martha & the Vandellas: Gold.
Edited by [deleted user] on 4 Oct 2011, 17:57
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