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3 Motown greats who recorded German versions of their hits
Talkin' bout mein girl...
 
Sing it, ladies.
Sing it, ladies. (AP Photo/Frings)

English didn't always rule the international pop music scene the way it does today. In the '60s, if a group had a hit, they sometimes went back into the studio to record versions in other languages for the European market. Artists would spend a few minutes getting familiar with a phonetic transcription of German, Italian, French, or Spanish lyrics, and then lay down a new vocal track in a take or two. Some of these recordings are preserved for posterity on the compilation album Motown Around the World. There's a reason these singers were stars. The way their charisma shines through, even in a language they don't know, is a testament to their talent as performers. They still completely own the songs. But the language shift will make you hear them in a whole new way.

1. MARVIN GAYE, "WIE SCHÖN DAS IST" ("HOW SWEET IT IS")

Wie schön das ist, daß du bei mir bist. "How beautiful it is that you're with me."

2. THE TEMPTATIONS, "MEIN GIRL" ("MY GIRL")

Wenn es regnet, sehe ich Sonnenschein. "When it rains, I see sunshine…"

3. THE SUPREMES, "WO IST UNSERE LIEBE?" ("WHERE DID OUR LOVE GO?")

Baby, baby, wo ist unsere Liebe? Oh baby, komm. Verlass mich nicht. "Baby, baby, where is our love? Oh baby, come. Don't leave me."

 
Arika Okrent is editor-at-large at TheWeek.com and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. She is the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a history of the attempt to build a better language. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and a first-level certification in Klingon.

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