The Spinners' 10 greatest songs, ranked

9 February 2024, 17:26

The Spinners (known as the Detroit Spinners in the UK) are one of the most celebrated R&B vocal groups of all time.
The Spinners (known as the Detroit Spinners in the UK) are one of the most celebrated R&B vocal groups of all time. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Edward

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They're one of the greatest ever vocal groups.

The Spinners, over the course of their near-70-year career in music, established themselves as a hit-making machine.

Also known as the Detroit Spinners in the UK (to avoid confusion with the folk group of the same name) and the Motown Spinners due to their association with the famed label, they etched their official name into the music history books.

After a stop-start career on Motown Records, the vocal group came into their own during the 1970s, evolving into one of the decade's most celebrated R&B acts.

In 1976 they were awarded with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2023 the band were eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sadly, the only living original member of The Spinners, Henry Fambrough was present at the ceremony, himself sadly passing away recently aged 85.

With blessing, the group continues to tour without any founding members so The Spinners timeless music will continue to soothe the souls of generations to come.

That said, we've ranked The Spinners' top ten songs from top to bottom:

  1. 'Games People Play'

    Games People Play

    A certified million-seller for The Spinners in 1975, 'Games People Play' became a major hit for the five-piece, peaking at number five on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts and taking the top spot on the US Billboard Hot Soul singles.

    Produced by Thom Bell, who had a hand in much of the success of Philly Soul acts of the era, it was a crossover success and landed The Spinners who all take it in turns to sing on the track.

    Bell later told The Billboard Book of #1 R&B Hits: "Basses are not usually designed to do anything but hold the root. He's the bottom and they're not really known for being soloists."

    "So I said I'm going to come up with something for that guy. And from the moment I gave him that part, his whole personality, his whole everything changed."

  2. 'Cupid' / 'I've Loved You For A Long Time'

    Cupid / I've Loved You for a Long Time (2003 Remaster)

    Paying homage to the ever-influential Sam Cooke, The Spinners took on 'Cupid' in 1980, a song that had been covered by various artists like The Supremes and Otis Redding, and more recently Amy Winehouse.

    The group's tight and upbeat funk rendition of the song became the highest 'Cupid' would ever chart in the US, peaking at number four.

    They also combined it with a cover of Michael Zager's 'I've Loved You For a Long Time', thus creating a medley out of Cooke's wide-eyed and wistful ode to love, and an infectiously memorable one at that.

  3. 'Mighty Love'

    Mighty Love

    Ever the optimists, The Spinners detail the start and subsequent end of young love, though, keep spirits high by reiterating there's a 'Mighty Love' out there for everyone in the end.

    The 1973 came during a hot streak for the group, who were turning every song into sheer gold dust.

    'Mighty Love' was their fourth number one hit on the R&B charts in a row, all of which were produced by Thom Bell.

    Lead vocals were shared by Bobbie Smith and Philippé Wynne here, though Wynne left the group in 1977 to pursue a solo career which didn't reach the same heights as his success with The Spinners.

  4. 'One Of A Kind (Love Affair)'

    One of a Kind (Love Affair)

    'One Of A Kind (Love Affair)' made it a hat-trick of number one debut singles on the R&B charts after leaving Motown to sign with Atlantic Records.

    With the encouragement of friend Aretha Franklin - arguably the most famous Detroit artist never to sign for Motown - The Spinners broke ties with Berry Gordy's label after their career went stale, and it was no doubt the best decision they could've made.

    The love affair might be one of a kind, but it doesn't pan out too well for a narrator, whose lover leaves without saying goodbye, only leaving a letter instead.

    This was inspired by a real-life experience from songwriter Joseph B. Jefferson, whose girlfriend left him whilst he was on tour drumming for The Manhattans, without saying goodbye.

  5. 'The Rubberband Man'

    The Spinners - Rubberband Man, on Midnight Special in 1976

    'The Rubberband Man' is about someone mesmerising a crowd by playing the rubber band stretched between his toes, emulating the bass guitar.

    Bell who originally wrote the song for his children with the title 'The Fat Man', later revealed: "It was written for big people who were hip, to change the whole idea of a person being large being sloppy, slow."

    The Spinners themselves would usually bring out specially made large elastic bands for a routine when performing the song live.

    The 1976 song would be the final time The Spinners hit the top spot on the R&B charts in their native US

  6. 'Then Came You' with Dionne Warwick

    Dionne Warwick & The Spinners - Then Came You

    Recruiting the matchless Dionne Warwick for 1973 single 'Then Came You' was a masterstroke for both The Spinners and the 'Walk On By' singer.

    Warwick was struggling to produce a hit since her move to Warner Records in 1972, and whilst The Spinners were an act on the up, they were propelled by her star power.

    'Then Came You' became an instant hit, making its way to the top of the US Billboard charts, the first time Warwick had done so until then, and the only time The Spinners achieved the feat.

  7. 'Could It Be I’m Falling In Love'

    Detroit Spinners - Could It Be I'm Falling In Love . HD

    With founding member Bobbie Smith taking up lead vocals on 'Could It Be I'm Falling In Love', the band were finally singing about love in all its glory, rather than its gut-wrenching pain.

    The Spinners' third single after moving to Atlantic Records was a smash hit, reaching the top spot on the R&B charts after its 1972 release.

    After a decade of frustration on Motown Records, watching acts like The Temptations and The Four Tops achieve huge success, it was now their turn.

  8. 'I'll Get Around'

    The Spinners ‎– I'll Be Around (Soul Train)1972

    'I'll Be Around' is one of The Spinners' most solemn and heart-breaking numbers, a story of being left behind by a lover, but confessing his unconditional love for her regardless.

    The lyrics were funnily enough written by the aptly named Phil Hurtt, though he later confirmed he hadn't experienced such desperation in love himself.

    It was a major hit for The Spinners, reaching number three on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts, and number one on the R&B chart after its 1972 release.

    Phil Hurtt later reflected: "I'm just so proud and happy and blessed that that song has crossed over into that company of being referred to as 'classic.' You hear a great melody and a great idea for a song, and then all you've got to do is write the story. I mean, wow, what an opportunity."

  9. 'It's A Shame'

    It's A Shame

    With that iconic guitar lick, effortless pitch-perfect vocal performance, and despairing lyrics, 'It's A Shame' is up there with the best R&B songs of the era, let alone The Spinners' best songs.

    Though it wasn't a huge overachiever at the time of its 1970 release, peaking at number four on the R&B charts, it has since become one of their most beloved hits.

    Penned by none other than Stevie Wonder, the wunderkind artist was overflowing with creativity and lent his craft to The Spinners just this one.

    It would become the first and only hit for the group during their time at Motown Records, but it paved the way for success in the following decade.

  10. 'Working My Way Back To You'

    The Spinners - Working My Way Back To You [Remastered]

    A funky thumper dripping with disco appeal, 'Working My Way Back To You' meets our criteria for The Spinners' greatest ever song.

    It certainly hit the spot for UK audiences, as the song took the number one spot in the charts for two weeks in 1980, four months after it was initially released in 1979.

    Fans in their native US couldn't propel the song to the top spot across the Atlantic however, being edged out of the summit by Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick In The Wall'.

    Released from their 1979 album Dancin' and Lovin', The Spinners weren't the first act to score a hit with 'Working My Way Back To You'.

    Penned by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, the song was originally recorded by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons in 1966, yet only reached number nine on the US charts.

    The Spinners reiterated 'Working My Way Back To You' as a bonafide classic, one that reminds new generations of fans how great the vocal group truly were.