The Big Chill is a ferociously intelligent, wonderfully witty comedy-drama about a group of old college friends who reunite 15 years after graduating when a member of their group dies. With a starry cast of Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, and JoBeth Williams, it picked up nominations for three Oscars and two Grammys, as well as the Toronto International Film Festival People’s Choice Award. But if the film is good, the soundtrack (a Motown-heavy compilation of 10 hits from the ’60s) is even better. Here’s how we rank all the songs from The Big Chill soundtrack in order of greatness.
10. Tell Him – The Exciters
Tell Him was recorded by several different artists before finally making its way into the hands of The Exciters in 1962. Dusty Springfield later credited their version with inspiring her to embark on a solo career, explaining in an interview. “The Exciters sort of got you by the throat…out of the blue comes blasting at you ‘I know something about love,’ and that’s it. That’s what I wanna do.” Since appearing on The Big Chill soundtrack, it’s also popped up on the soundtracks for My Best Friend’s Wedding and Monsters vs Aliens.
9. Joy to the World – Three Dog Night
Famous for the opening howl of “Jeremiah was a bullfrog,” Joy to the World may have been dismissed by Three Dog Night as a “kid’s song” and a “silly song,” but it still managed to give them one of the biggest hits of their career, topping the US charts and eventually certifying gold. It’s one of the most prominent songs on The Big Chill soundtrack, featuring both at the beginning of the film and during the end credits.
8. I Second That Emotion – Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
Smokey Robinson and Al Cleveland’s inspiration for I Second That Emotion came during a shopping trip in Detroit. After Robinson found a set of pearls for his wife, he told the salesperson “I sure hope she likes them.” Cleveland intended to add “I second that motion,” but ended up saying “I second that emotion” by mistake. Struck by the malapropism, they immediately got to work incorporating it into a song about a woman who’s become too disillusioned by love to commit to just one man.
7. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg – The Temptations
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg gave The Temptations a major hit in 1966, taking the group to number 1 on the Billboard R&B charts and number 13 on the Billboard Pop Chart. The group’s performance is outstanding, but the real star of the show is Norman Whitfield’s lean, almost aggressive production, which proved such a hit, he ended up taking over from Smokey Robinson as The Temptations’ main producer.
6. Good Lovin’ – The Young Rascals
Good Lovin’ was first recorded in 1965 by Lemme B. Goode. A month later, The Olympics took it to number 81 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart with their version. After hearing it on the radio, Felix Cavaliere of The Young Rascals convinced the rest of the group to add it to their live repertoire. In 1966, they finally got around to committing it to tape. The result was a number one hit on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and the first big chart success of the group’s career. It’s since been named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
5. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – Aretha Franklin
Written by hitmakers Carole King and Gerry Goffin, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman gave Aretha Franklin a top ten hit in the US in 1967, along with a new signature song to add to her collection. It didn’t make it to the UK charts at the time, but a week after Franklin’s death in 2018, it climbed to number 51. Carole King, Mary J Blige and Celine Dion have all recorded the song since, but Franklin’s peerless original remains unmatched.
4. A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum
Procol Harem weren’t exactly one-hit wonders, but there’s no question that the song they’re best remembered for is A White Shade of Pale. A baroque masterpiece, it topped the charts across the world, eventually becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time after sales exceeded the 10 million mark. In 2018, the song was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame.
3. My Girl – The Temptations
Described by Billboard as “a pulsating, shuffle-wobble ballad” with a “very tempting style” and a “striking arrangement,” the gorgeously soulful My Girl become the Temptations’ most successful ever single on its release in 1965, topping both the US Billboard R&B Chart and Hot 100 and quickly establishing itself as the group’s signature song. Since then, it’s been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.”
2. The Tracks of My Tears – The Miracles
Written by Smokey Robinson, Pete Moore, and Marv Tarplin of the Miracles, The Tracks of My Tears became a major hit for the group in 1965, reaching number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the Billboard R&B chart. Widely considered one of Motown’s most significant recordings, it sold over a million copies within just two years of its release. Its popularity hasn’t waned in the years since: in addition to being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, it’s also been ranked as one of the “Songs of the Century” by the Recording Industry Association of America and The National Endowment for the Arts and been named “The Greatest Motown Song of All Time” by Rolling Stone.
1. I Heard It Through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye
I Heard It Through the Grapevine became the biggest selling Motown single of all time in 1967 when Gladys Knight and the Pips bought their girl group magic to the Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong penned number. A year later, Marvin Gaye gave it a seductive twist and turned it into a bonafide soul classic. Since hitting the number one spot on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Album Chart in 1968, Gaye’s version has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, been voted one of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone, and become one of the most beloved Motown songs ever recorded.