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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

As the Temptations say, "Get Ready" for what lies ahead in the near future

In my excitement for this coming week, I hear this tune capturing my eagerness to go full speed ahead into these next few days.

I don't know whether I'm extremely ready for the week that lies ahead, or whether I'm not ready at all.

Simply put, it's Big Game Week — Cal travels to Stanford for the 124th playing of their rivalry this Saturday afternoon. I'm more excited for this week than any other time all year. It's part of being a Cal fan and student, especially for someone like me who was born and raised blue and gold.

I've got so much I need to do this week, even after getting ahead in a couple classes these past few days... but even though I'm so pumped for the game, I feel motivated to crush everything that stands between me and the game. I guess in that case I've got the right attitude for this week... and my message for everyone I know — especially my fellow Cal fans — is to get ready.

...which brings me to today's Senior Year Soundtrack selection, a 60s favorite of mine with that aforementioned phrase as a title: the Temptations' energetic 1966 courtship anthem "Get Ready." Rare Earth may have had a bigger hit with their cover a few years later, but I'm partial to the original, with its brass backing and the combined vocal effort of one of the greatest R&B groups of all time.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm a sucker for horns in popular music, likely owing to my background as a trombonist. Well, the Temptations' original take on "Get Ready" has horns from the get-go, with trombones introducing the song's main riff alongside the bass and low piano. The horns then take a back seat for the verse, letting the piano provide the main accompaniment for Eddie Kendricks. I find Kendricks to be the perfect choice to helm "Get Ready," as his gentle but playful falsetto provides a good contrast from the beefy low end and horn section.

Kendricks sings "Get Ready" to his love interest, who seems to be just the bees' knees based on how he describes her: "I never met a girl who makes me feel the way that you do," he opens. Then, there's a response from his backing bandmates: "You're alright!"

Well, hi there, fellas. Didn't quite expect you to be listening and so on cue... but dang, those are great backing vocals. As weird as it is for me to say it, I've always remembered the rest of the band's momentary quips more than Kendricks' longer vocal phrasings. They just hit so strongly at the end of each line, and they're short and punchy in a way that makes them really stand out. Credit to David Ruffin, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, and the still-performing Otis Williams for putting everything into those backing lines, as well as Motown's female session group the Andantes, who joined the other men in backing up Kendricks.

Back to Kendricks and the lead vocals, the question is begging to be asked: for what should we, or Kendricks' love interest, be getting ready? Soon enough, Kendricks makes it clear that the object of his affections should be ready for him to demonstrate his love to her, and then some. Preceded by "fee-fi-fo-fum" in the first verse and "fiddley-dee, fiddley-dum" later on, he exclaims, "Look out, baby, 'cause here I come."

I find "Get Ready" interesting from a narrative perspective because we don't actually get the demonstration of love that Kendricks says he'll give. Rather, the song is entirely in anticipation of being able to do so in the very near future — as Kendricks says after each chorus, he's on his way. In the anticipation, though, we find raw, internal emotion that really comes through in the chorus. The brass and strings come back in full, and the backing vocals lift Kendricks' voice even higher. (I again gravitate towards those backing vocals and their strong ascending line, but maybe that's just me.) In saying that his love is true, Kendricks prays that she feels the same way... but alas, we don't know the answer, because that would honestly ruin everything he and the Temptations have built up over the course of the tune. "Get Ready" is a song that's meant to end one somewhat of a cliffhanger, and I'm impressed by songwriter Smokey Robinson managing to craft a narrative that feels satisfying ending that way.

*sigh* No, I'm not in love with any one person (yet), but I hear "Get Ready" as more than just a great Motown love song. I hear it as a song filled to the brim with excitement and expectation, no matter what sort of future lies ahead for the listener. With that perspective on this energetic tune, I launch myself into Big Game Week and all the chaotic joy it brings to Cal and the Bay Area. Allons-y, and Go Bears!


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