"Reach Out I'll Be There" (also formatted as "Reach Out (I'll Be There)") is a song recorded by the Four Tops from their fourth studio album Reach Out (1967). Written and produced by Motown's main production team, Holland–Dozier–Holland, the song is one of the best known Motown tunes of the 1960s and is today considered the Four Tops' signature song.
In 1966, Holland, Dozier and Holland were writing new songs for the Four Tops to record for an album. Lamont Dozier said that he wanted to write "a journey of emotions with sustained tension, like a bolero. To get this across, I alternated the keys, from a minor, Russian feel in the verse to a major, gospel feel in the chorus." He developed the lyrics with Eddie Holland, aiming for them to sound "as though they were being thrown down vocally." Dozier said that they were strongly influenced by Bob Dylan at the time, commenting: "We wanted Levi [Stubbs] to shout-sing the lyrics... as a shout-out to Dylan."
For the recording, the writers and producers intentionally put Levi Stubbs at the top of his vocal range, according to Abdul Fakir of the Four Tops, "to make sure he'd have that cry and hunger and wailing in his voice." Arranger Paul Riser overdubbed instruments including a piccolo and flute in the intro, and a drum pattern made by using timpani mallets on a tambourine head. After the recording was completed and on hearing the final version, the group begged Berry Gordy not to release it; according to Fakir, "for us, the song felt a little odd." However, Gordy insisted that it be issued as a single.
Lead singer Levi Stubbs delivers many of the lines in the song in a tone that some suggest straddles the line between singing and shouting, as he did in the 1965 hit, "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)". AllMusic critic Ed Hogan praises Stubbs' vocal as well as the song's "rock-solid groove" and "dramatic, semi-operatic tension and release." Critic Martin Charles Strong calls the song "a soul symphony of epic proportions that remains [the Four Tops'] signature tune."
Eddie realized that when Levi hit the top of his vocal range, it sounded like someone hurting, so he made him sing right up there. Levi complained, but we knew he loved it. Every time they thought he was at the top, he would reach a little further until you could hear the tears in his voice. The line "Just look over your shoulder" was something he threw in spontaneously. Levi was creative like that; he could always add something from the heart.
Diana Ross covered "Reach Out, I'll Be There" in 1971. Her version, which would be released from her LP Surrender, reached number 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 35 in Canada. Her rendition was produced by Ashford & Simpson.
Gaynor's version of "Reach Out, I'll Be There" became an international hit. It reached number 60 in the U.S. and number 16 in Canada. In Europe, it reached number 14 in the UK and number five in Germany.