Jr. Walker and the All Stars – “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)”

Jr. Walker and the All Stars – “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love),” Pop # 4, R&B # 1

By Joel Francis

“What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” was Jr. Walker’s second chart-topper and first since 1965’s “Shotgun,” but the two songs couldn’t have been more different. While “Shotgun” was a raw roadhouse rumble with the horn dominating the vocals, “What Does It Take” was a smooth love song designed to drive traffic to the bedroom.

Although Walker penned many of the All Stars’ best numbers, like “Shake and Fingerpop,” “Hip City” and “Last Call,” he handed the reigns over to the songwriting and production duo of Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol in a bid for greater pop success in the late ‘60s.

On paper it looked like a solid decision. Fuqua and Bristol were trusted entities. The latter discovered Walker, and the former gave Walker his first record deal. When Fuqua’s Harvey Records were purchased by Motown, Fuqua, Bristol and Walker became part of the Hitsville family.

While Fuqua and Bristol were successful in taking Walker back to the top of the charts, they did it by depriving Walker of his signature sound. The great saxophone that propelled so many All Stars singles was relegated to anonymous responses that could have been handled by any session player. Walker has overcome his initial microphone shyness to deliver a credible vocal, but his delivery his hardly distinct. All the right elements may be in place, but the product is competently forgettable.

Any thoughts that Walker strayed too far from the sound that made him great are reinforced by Kenny G’s 1986 cover featuring Bristol on lead vocals.


4 thoughts on “Jr. Walker and the All Stars – “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)”

  1. This is an awesome song packed with soul and I think you underestimate the power and pure soul of Jnr Walker’s vocals and the breadth of his talent.

  2. Absolutely, this was a ‘new’ Junior, and welcome. With the Supremes “No Matter What Sign You Are” threatening NO competition, the Tops in a stall, and the Temps “I Can’t Get Next To You” not getting started till August, it was Walker (and Stevie’s “My Cherie Amour”) that were Motown’s calling cards in the summer of ’69. Both remind me of men walking on the moon for the first time.

    Walker is quoted in the booklet to his “Nothing But Soul” set, that the thinking at the time as far as his material was concerned, was ‘hit them where they’re not.’ Meaning, while his labelmates were concerning themselves with love children, neglected mothers dying, escaping to numbered clouds, runaway children and the Joneses, Walker would embrace the romanticism they were leaving behind. And starting with “What” and continuing with “These Eyes,” “Gotta Hold On To This Feeling,” “Do You See My Love,” “Way Back Home” and “Walk In The Night” he did so beautifully.

    Of course, Walker’s dancefloor hits are never going to die, and I treasure them as well. The latter hits showed us all that Walker could do a lot more than just rhyme ‘tomato’ with ‘potato,’ could kick ass but also augment our yearnings and dreams. May he rest in peace.

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