(February 14, 2024).  Few groups moved the needle as well as the Spinners did during their heyday.

From 1970-80, they racked up 17 top-ten hits on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (then known as Hot Soul Singles).  Seven of those also crossed over to the top ten on the pop chart — the Hot 100 — where the group scored a total of 23 entries in that ten-year window. 

By contrast, in the years prior to 1970 and after 1980, the Spinners charted, but with far fewer hits. From their first chart entry in 1961 until 1969, they had only two top-ten R&B singles and only three Hot 100 entries altogether.

From 1981 until their last chart entry in 1990, they had zero top-ten singles on either chart and only one (out of three entries total) that climbed as high as No. 52 on the Hot 100.

It’s clear which ten-year period the group thrived in, from their last Motown success that began the seventies (1970’s “It’s a Shame”) to 1980’s nostalgic double-double with Atlantic: the two medleys “Working My Way Back to You”/ “Forgive Me Girl” and “Cupid”/ “I’ve Loved You for a Long Time.”

Their 1970 hit single featured lead vocals by G.C. Cameron, who left the group shortly afterwards when the Spinners switched from Motown to Atlantic Records.

Their two big 1980 hits were sung by John Edwards, who’d replaced Philippé “Soul” Wynne three years earlier. 

All the big hits in between were sung by the classic lineup of Wynne (who joined the group in 1972 and who died in ‘84), plus four founders Pervis Jackson (d: 2008), Billy Henderson (d: 2007), Bobby Smith (d: 2013), and the recently deceased Henry Fambrough (1938-2024).

Fambrough’s passing this month meant that all five founding members (including original Spinner C.P. Spencer who left the group in 1956 and died in 2004) are no longer with us. 

But the group’s music is.  And it is in that spirit that djrobblog celebrates their legacy by ranking what yours truly believes are their 25 greatest songs from that classic period, 1970-80. That excludes songs that came before, like 1961’s “That’s What Girls Are Made For,” or sporadic hits that came afterwards, like 1982’s “Funny How Time Slips Away,” which made my personal charts when it was out.

The big hits by Cameron and Edwards who, ironically, are still with us, are included, but they admittedly can’t hold a candle to the smooth Philly Soul sounds that came with the classic lineup of Smith-Fambrough-Henderson-Jackson-Wynne, courtesy of their alignment with gifted creators Thom Bell (d: 2022) and Linda Creed (d: 1986), and songwriters Joseph B. Jefferson, Bruce Hawes, and Charles Simmons, among others.

So, let’s get right into it.  Below are what djrobblog considers the 25 greatest Spinners songs, counted down from No. 25 to No. 1.  Of course, while these rankings reflect my humble opinion, it is not the only opinion.  Feel free to comment below or in any of the social media feeds where the article is posted and share your favorite Spinners tunes.

The songs are listed by rank, (with titles followed parenthetically by year of release and album title).

25. “You Made a Promise to Me” (1975; Pick of the Litter).

This string-laden ballad featured Bobby Smith kicking off the verses with a cadence that often sounded a lot like Wynne’s.  The song had a couple of odd gimmicks, including Smith finishing two of the opening lines with the phrase “dig it,” and the choruses containing the Italian phrase “Eo Non Andra Mai,” which translates to “you will never go.”

24. “Since I Been Gone” (1974; Mighty Love).

Most of the songs on the Spinners’ Mighty Love album (and those that immediately followed) were written by the trio of Joseph B. Jefferson, Bruce Hawes, and Charles Simmons.  This understated mid-tempo gem by lead vocalist Bobby Smith was a fine example of how the songwriters mastered complex chord progressions and the Spinners (with their female backing vocalists) did the same with intricate harmonies.

23. “You’re Throwing a Good Love Away” (1977; Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow).

Philippé Wynne famously left the group during the recording of their first of two 1977 albums, and he was replaced by new lead singer John Edwards.  Perhaps that was the inspiration for the album’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow title, as it contained songs featuring lead vocals from both Wynne (the past) and Edwards (the future), as well as founding members who remained with the group (the present).  “You’re Throwing a Good Love Away” was recorded during the sessions for their 1976 album, Happiness Is Being with The Spinners, and it contains all the Wynne ad lib elements that made the group’s earlier hits so special.

22. “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You” (1973; Spinners).

The Spinners delivered a swinging, jazzed-up version of the 1970 Wilson Pickett classic with this remake.  Philippé Wynne was getting his mack on in this early example of his exceptional improvisation skills, including a hilarious reference to his “big black arms” at one point.

21. “Just as Long as We Have Love” (1975; Pick of the Litter).

This ballad featured an uncredited Dionne Warwick dueting with Fambrough/ Spinners and is a standout example of what should have been a regular pairing between the two venerable hitmakers.  It certainly stands with the best of the seventies’ romantic collaborations, even if it wasn’t released as a single and Warwick received no label mention. Though it marked the beginning of a significant hit drought for Dionne, her voice was in perfect form as we all realized during a huge comeback four years later.

20. “Smile, We Have Each Other” (1974; New and Improved).

Fambrough starts this beautiful ballad off with a melodic baritone that makes you wonder why he wasn’t featured more prominently on the group’s biggest single releases.  Then Wynne picks up the second verse and reminds us why he was.

19. “I Don’t Want to Lose You” (1975; Pick of the Litter).

The recently departed Henry Fambrough was probably best suited for the Spinners’ ballads about lost love (with maybe Philippé Wynne’s “Love Don’t Love Nobody” being the lone exception).  Fambrough’s voice, as demonstrated throughout “I Don’t Want to Lose You,” brought with it an understated pain that upon each listen made you sympathize for the man, if not empathize with him.  This was also a B-side to the top-5 hit, “Games People Play.”

18. “How Could I Let You Get Away” (1972; Spinners).

This was the first single the Spinners released for Atlantic Records in July 1972 and featured new lead singer Philippé Wynne singing in close harmony with founder Henry Fambrough and only the remaining Spinners (not their Sigma Sound female backing vocalists) providing backup… a rarity in their newfound Philly Soul existence.  It was a classic ballad in the male doo-wop vein seldom heard on early ‘70s soul hits with Motown, Stax, and Philly Soul ruling the day.

17. “Living a Little, Laughing a Little” (1974; New and Improved).

Fambrough and Wynne alternate lead again, but Wynne overpowers as he applies his gospel tenor to this second single from the New and Improved album.  Thom Bell mastered the art of allowing the final choruses of Spinners’ songs to have long finishes so that Wynne could shine, and this was no exception.

16. “He’ll Never Love You Like I Do” (1974; Mighty Love).

Two albums have five tracks apiece on this list, 1973’s Spinners, and 1974’s Mighty Love.  This simple, mid-tempo ballad hails from the latter and, once again, features shared vocals between Bobby Smith and Philippé Wynne, the latter of whom takes us out once again with one of his signature signoffs.

15. “It’s A Shame” (1970; 2nd Time Around).

Stevie Wonder penned “It’s a Shame” with his future wife Syreeta Wright and writer Lee Garrett, and the Spinners earned their first top-20 pop hit with it in 1970.  Recorded for Motown’s V.I.P. label, the Spinners were treated as anything but by Berry Gordy’s company and they left Motown a year later.  After recording “It’s a Shame,” lead singer G.C. Cameron exited the Spinners in 1972 (replaced by Wynne) and remained with Motown to honor his contract.

14. “Working My Way Back to You”/ “Forgive Me Girl” (1979; Dancin’ and Lovin’).

The first of two ‘60s remakes for the Spinners to reach the top five in 1980, this song (their first hit with John Edwards as lead) was a medley of the Four Seasons’ “Working My Way Back to You” and a new tune, “Forgive Me Girl,” both set to a soft-disco beat.  Disco was on its way out, but the nostalgic touch worked and sent this song to No. 2 on the Hot 100.  The only barrier preventing it from giving the Spinners their first “solo” No. 1 was Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” (Warning, the above video clip from Soul Train includes a post-edited intro using Kool & the Gang’s “Fresh,” as an unnecessary lead-in.)

13. “Ghetto Child” (1973; Spinners).

This fifth hit from the group’s self-titled debut for Atlantic Records put them in the record books as having the only album of the 1970s to generate five top-15 soul singles.  To put that in perspective, Michael Jackson’s Thriller was the next album to do it (in 1984) with five of its seven singles reaching that status on the soul chart.  On its own merits, “Ghetto Child,” whose lyrical theme was self-explanatory, reached No. 4 soul and was one of those rare moments when Fambrough, Smith and Wynne all got a chance to shine on lead vocals.

12. “Then Came You” (with Dionne Warwick) (1974; New and Improved).

While this was the group’s biggest hit (and Dionne’s until 1986), this really did feel more like a Dionne Warwick vehicle with Bobby Smith harmonizing on the verses and the Spinners (and their normal backing singers) providing backup on the choruses.  Wynne provides his trademark ad libs but Warwick, surprisingly, hangs with him, making the song practically hers.  The song reached No. 1 in late October 1974 while the group had the highest debut in that week’s top 40 (at No. 31 with “Love Don’t Love Nobody”). The following week, “Then Came You” tied a then-record plummet from No. 1 (to No. 15), one that stood for more than four decades until the fickle nature of downloads and streaming changed everything.

11. “Love or Leave” (1975; Pick of the Litter).

This upbeat single about indecision in relationships featured Bobby Smith and Philippé Wynne at their trademark best, even if it sounded as though they were dipping in the well of 1974’s “Mighty Love,” I still loved it.  It was a worthy follow-up to “Games People Play” and culminated the group’s incredible twelve-song top-10 streak on the R&B chart (and peaked at No. 36 pop).  That Wynne ad lib at the end…again, no one did it better!

10. “Love Don’t Love Nobody” (1974; Mighty Love).

The three chart singles from 1974’s Mighty Love followed an odd pattern: they peaked successively higher on the pop chart and successively lower on the soul list. “Love Don’t Love Nobody” – the only ballad in the bunch — reached No. 15 pop and No. 4 soul, following “Mighty Love” (No. 1 soul; No. 20 pop) and “I’m Coming Home” (No. 3 soul; No. 18 pop). “Love Don’t Love Nobody” also gave the group the odd distinction of having a third single from a prior album (Mighty Love) enter the top 40 on the Hot 100 as the first single, “Then Came You,” from their next album (New and Improved) was already moving to No. 1. All the trivia aside, “Love Don’t Love Nobody” stands as one of the greatest soul ballads of the 1970s.

9. “Cupid”/ “I’ve Loved You for a Long Time” (1980; Love Trippin’).

The Spinners continued their 1960s revival set to a disco beat in 1980 with this Sam Cooke remake (“Cupid”) paired with a new song (“I’ve Loved You for a Long Time”), and it gave them their second top-five single in 1980, the first time they’d ever had two such hits on the pop chart in the same year.  Sadly, it was also the last time the group would see the top half of the Hot 100.

8. “I’m Coming Home” (1974; Mighty Love).

While Thom Bell and Linda Creed were working their magic for the Spinners (and Stylistics), they were also doing the same for 1950s icon Johnny Mathis.  They wrote “I’m Coming Home” as the title track to his 1973 album and when Mathis released it as a single, it flopped.  No worries, the Spinners covered it for their Mighty Love album the next year and took it to No. 3 soul and No. 18 pop.  It was a total Philippé Wynne moment, and his gospel style and ad libs sent this one over the top. It didn’t hurt that it was recorded around the same time that American troops were returning home from the just-ending Vietnam War.

7. “‘They Just Can’t Stop It’ the (Games People Play)” (1975; Pick of the Litter).

This tune was one of those rare 45s that I had two copies of: one purchased by my mother in 1975, and the other I found among a stack of discarded singles in a neighborhood playground around a year later.  I still have both (and both, thankfully, eschewed the awkwardly long and weirdly punctuated original title shown above).  Speaking of 45s, “Games People Play” is best known for the group’s bass singer Pervis Jackson and the line “12:45,” which playfully became his nickname.  It’s also the song that baritone singer Fambrough famously “projected” a female sounding vocal on the pre-choruses, or so we were led to believe.  It turned out to be regular backing vocalist and Sigma Studio Sweetheart Evette Benton. Well, at least he mastered the essential art of lip-synching.

6. “Sadie” (1974; New and Improved).

Though it was specifically named for a woman named Sadie Mae, this gospel-tinged song was dedicated to all the young mothers out there who, as Philippé Wynne spoke in the opening line, were around when he grew up.  Of course, it’s hard to imagine that they weren’t still around in 1975 when this song was a hit (I can bear witness to at least those in my village), but the sentiment was nice.  It turns out that Wynne’s mother Anne (not Sadie) was still alive when he sang this classic, although she’d abandoned the family for another man when he was still young, perhaps lending to the heartfelt pain with which he delivered it.

5. “I’ll Be Around” (1972; Spinners).

This is the song that (kinda) started it all for the Spinners’ ‘70s heyday.  It was never intended to be released as an A-side single and instead backed “How Could I Let You Get Away” on the Spinners’ first Atlantic Records vinyl 45.  But radio stations saw things differently and, eventually, the label caved and began promoting “I’ll Be Around” as a single.  It went to No. 1 on the R&B chart for five solid weeks (squeezed between James Brown’s “Get on the Good Foot” and Harold Melvin’s “If You Don’t Know Me by Now”) and reached No. 3 pop.

4. “One of a Kind (Love Affair)” (1973; Spinners).

The Spinners’ third-consecutive No. 1 single from their first Atlantic Records album was another beauty.  Plush instrumentation courtesy of Philly’s MFSB, the house band for Philadelphia International Records that often did the honors for “outside” projects like The Spinners and Stylistics, and those angelic backing vocals by The Sweethearts of Philly’s famed Sigma Studios: Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Evette Benton.  This would also become the group’s most controversial song, with a misheard line in the album version that sounded like Philippé Wynne was singing, “Makes you want to love her, you just got to fuck her yeah.”  Replace the f-bomb with “hug” and you’ll have the actual line (I think).

3. “The Rubberband Man” (1976; Happiness Is Being with the Spinners).

This No. 1 soul/ No. 2 pop chart smash is considered Philippé “Soul” Wynne’s signature song, an exercise in true showmanship with perhaps one of the best examples of his incredible, gospel-like improvisational skills ever delivered on wax (vinyl’s nickname back then).  No one could quite figure out what a “Rubberband Man” was in 1976, but we imagined this “short fat guy” was elastic and funky and able to perform all kinds of acrobatic moves on the dance floor.  The Spinners would occasionally bring the visual to life with huge rubber bands accentuating their performances of the classic song (like in the above Midnight Special video clip).  Millennials got to experience “The Rubberband Man” as the lone song played by Guardians of the Galaxy character Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) in the 2018 installment of the Marvel franchise, proving that the song still kicks today!

2. “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” (1972; Spinners).

This beautiful mid-tempo ballad was the group’s second-consecutive top-5 pop/ No. 1 soul hit and million-seller with Atlantic Records.  Considered a pop masterpiece written by brothers Mervin and Melvin Steals, the song solidified the Detroit group as Philly Soul hitmakers and not one-trick ponies after the earlier success of “I’ll Be Around.”  It was also voted as the top pop/soul crossover song of the 1970s in a tournament I ran for the Lost Pop Hits Facebook group in 2017-18, narrowly beating Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” That’s saying something!

1. “Mighty Love” (1974; Mighty Love).

Maybe it was the synch with Spike Lee’s film Crooklyn that sent this one over the top for me.  Or maybe it was Philippé “Soul” Wynne’s mighty, mighty vocal performance that did it.  But doesn’t this now seem like the song that should be played at every soul cookout in America? Per the template, Bobby Smith led off each verse with his smooth velvety vocals, but they were then punctuated by Wynne who, once again, showed that he was the King of 1970s ad lib.  Oh, and you need never listen to the edited single version of “Mighty Love,” which removes nearly two minutes of Wynne’s spirited coda.  Only the full-length album version (4:56) does it justice. The above video is from the 1975 Grammys, which Wynne and the Spinners took to church!

Those are my 25 faves by the Spinners — the songs I consider their greatest. Honorable mentions go to songs like “Toni My Love” from 1976’s Happiness Is Being with the Spinners, “Me and My Music” from 1977’s Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, “Honest I Do” from 1975’s Pick of the Litter, “I’ve Got To Make It On My Own” from 1974’s New and Improved, and both “(Oh Lord) I Wish I Could Sleep” and “Love Has Gone Away” from 1974’s Mighty Love.

All 25 ranked songs plus those honorable mentions are included in the special Spotify playlist below created by the blog in celebration of the Spinners’ incredible legacy. I hope you enjoy it (and don’t forget to comment below the article or on any of the social media feeds where this article is posted about your favorites by this legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group).


DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, disco, pop, rock and (sometimes) country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

DJRob (@djrobblog) on Threads

You can also register for free (select the menu bars above) to receive notifications of future articles.

By DJ Rob

Your thoughts?