The Supremes, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye are a few of the most legendary Motown artists. Many of us are familiar with their hits from the ’60s and ’70s…but could you imagine these same hits being recorded in German? Yes, such recordings do exist. Decades ago, before English began to saturate the entertainment industry even in countries where it wasn’t the most commonly-spoken language, many record labels encouraged their big-name artists to re-record foreign-language versions of their most popular songs in order to expand their market. These recordings have been compiled into an album called “Motown Around the World,” which is available for purchase today. The German-izing of hit songs wasn’t limited to just Motown, though: as this article reveals, there are also German-language editions of the Beach Boys’ “In My Room,” Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” and The Beatles’ “She Loves You” floating around as well.
This kind of a marketing ploy is quite the opposite of the how things are handled in the entertainment industry today. With the English language now dominating Western pop-culture, it would be difficult to find an English-speaking artist who’d be encouraged to struggle their way through a German version of their most beloved hit. On the contrary, in order to get rich and world-famous in this day and age, it’s mostly English or nothing…many German artists choose to sing in English in order to cross over. This creates songs that not only have different words, but different messages as well…there can be much lost in translation. Purists claim that this is the sort of thing that deteriorates a culture, diluting its unique identity as it becomes lost in the wider global culture. But when you’re an artist trying to make it big, thinking about how you might be contributing to the ruin of your country’s culture is probably not high on your lists of priorities…you just want to make the Top 40.