(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave

Album: Heat Wave (1963)
Charted: 4
Play Video


  • Written by the Motown songwriting team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, this was the first Top 10 hit for Martha & the Vandellas, whose lead singer, Martha Reeves, started as a secretary at Motown.

    "Heat Wave" was the group's second hit written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, following "Come and Get These Memories." It was also one of the first songs to create the style of music that would be known as the "Motown Sound."
  • In this song, Reeves sings about a guy who turns her on so much that her temperature rises when he's around. Like many of Motown's hits, it's a light and amorous pop song.
  • Many of the jaunty songs Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote at Motown are underpinned with heartbreaking lyrics, often inspired by real-life breakups. This one is more congruent and less personal. Lamont Dozier explained: "It was summertime and hot and sticky in Detroit. I often sat at the piano and played a warm-up riff to get my day started. This one particular day the heat was over the top and I was watching tv and the weatherman said we had a record-breaking five-day heat wave that was not going to let up. So all this funky riff needed was for me to throw a girl into the mix and this song was born."
  • Martha & the Vandellas became the first Motown group ever to receive a Grammy Award nomination when this song was nominated in 1964 for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording; it lost to Ray Charles' hit "Busted."
  • Whoopi Goldberg sang this in the 1992 film Sister Act. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jerro - New Alexandria, PA, for above 3
  • Linda Ronstadt reached US #5 in 1975 with her cover version, which was the first single from her album Prisoner In Disguise. It was a song her band had been pushing her to perform; they finally did at a gig in Long Island when they kept getting called back for encores and ran out of material. Recording it was a challenge; Ronstadt's producer Peter Asher tried it with a few different sets of musicians before getting the take he liked with Andrew Gold on drums and Ronstadt's Stone Poneys bandmate Kenny Edwards on bass. Gold then overdubbed guitars, piano and an ARP string synthesizer. Asher added four tracks of hand claps.
  • Artists who have covered this song include Lou Christie, the Jam, Joan Osborne, the Supremes, and The Who.

Comments: 17

  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaMichael you will find that forever. Have heard a song by Brooks and Dunn and the drum pattern on the end is almost exactly like the old song Tequilla.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaTo me some of the Funk Brothers best stuff was when they played for the Vandellas. You can pull the lyrics out of the song and it still cooks.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 28th 1963, "Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #82; and on September 15th, 1963 it peaked at #4 {for 2 weeks} and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100 {and for 6 of those 14 weeks it was on the Top 10}...And on September 8th, 1963 it reached #1 {for 4 weeks} on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...Phil Collins covered the song in 2010, his version peak at #28 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NySince "Quicksand" is not on SongFacts and followed "Heat Wave" onto to the Top 100, I decided to post it here...
    On this day in 1963 (December 29th) "Quicksand" by Martha and the Vandellas peaked at #8 (for 1 week) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on November 23rd and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #7 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    Between 1963 and 1972 the group had twenty-five hits on the R&B Singles chart; with eleven making the Top 10 and two reaching #1 ("Heat Wave" in 1963 and "Jimmy Mack" in 1967).
  • Buddah from New York, NyThere's also an underground live recording of Martha and Springsteen doing this together in Detroit. The song is 50 years old and still hot!
  • Gerard from Toulouse, FranceFor anyone who has worked with teenagers a whole lifetime, or has the slightest rememberance of one's own teenage years, Heatwave doesn't need much explaining! The narrator is just dying to have sex for the first time, and she/he experiencing physical and mental changes she/he has never known before, and wonders what the hell it's all about, full stop!
  • Michael from Columbus, OhI wonder where Holland-Dozier-Holland got the inspiration for the melody. Some of this song is identical to All My Lovin' by the Beatles. The tempo is almost identical. The melody with words from Heatwave starting with "Whenever" and ending with "inside" is almost identical to the melody with the words from All My Lovin' starting with "Close your eyes" and ending with "true". Both the words "Close your" and "Whenever" are sung a cappella (singing with out instruments). I play bass and some of the music can be played identically on the bass in either song. Just something I noticed since I play both songs. Both songs are great.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyAs already noted "Quicksand" and "Live Wire" sounded very much like "Heat Wave". But I guess the buying public didn't mind the second time around, for "Quicksand" peaked at #8, but "Live Wire" wore out it's welcome, it only reached #42!!!
  • John from Nashville, TnWhen this record came out, local California tv weathermen used this song to describe the heatwave that was going on in L.A.
  • John from Nashville, TnAfter "Heatwave", Holland/Dozier/Holland produced two soundalike followups for the girls-- "Quicksand" and "Live Wire. The former went top 10 pop, while the latter stalled outside the top 40.
  • Mrcleaveland from Cleveland,My favorite song of all time. Grinding sax, thumping bass, the harmony and woo-woos -- this song's got it all! It was great in '63 and is still great.
  • Kristin from Bessemer, AlThis song was featured in the movies "Carrie" starring Sissy Spacek and in "More American Graffiti"-
  • John from New York, NyI have to disagree with the songfact above which states this is a light and amourous pop song. Nothing about Martha and the Vandellas version is light at all. Burnin' Burnin' Burnin'
  • Michael from San Diego, CaI really like Linda Ronstadt's version of this great tune as well...you can still hear it on the radio alot, especially during the summer time.
  • Meredith from Wauwatosa, WiI think Whoopi did a pretty good job of covering it for Sister Act. Pretty good song.
  • Joshua from La Crosse, WiThe original version of this also appeared early in the 1995 Gene Hackman/Denzel Washington submarine thriller Crimson Tide.
  • Matthew from Milford, MaLike a heeeat waaaaave!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Gavin Rossdale On Lyric Inspirations and Bush's Album The Kingdom

Gavin Rossdale On Lyric Inspirations and Bush's Album The KingdomSongwriter Interviews

The Bush frontman on where he finds inspiration for lyrics, if his "machine head" is a guitar tuner, and the stories behind songs from the album The Kingdom.

Daryl Hall

Daryl HallSongwriter Interviews

Daryl Hall's TV show is a hit, and he's been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - only one of these developments excites him.

Graduation Songs

Graduation SongsFact or Fiction

Have you got the smarts to know which of these graduation song stories are real?

Brian Kehew: The Man Behind The Remasters

Brian Kehew: The Man Behind The RemastersSong Writing

Brian has unearthed outtakes by Fleetwood Mac, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Costello and hundreds of other artists for reissues. Here's how he does it.

Jeff Trott

Jeff TrottSongwriter Interviews

Sheryl Crow's longtime songwriting partner/guitarist Jeff Trott reveals the stories behind many of the singer's hits, and what its like to be a producer for Leighton Meester and Max Gomez.

The End Of The Rock Era

The End Of The Rock EraSong Writing

There are no more rock stars - the last one died in 1994.