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Standing In the Shadows of Motown February 18, 2009

Posted by Wheneva Whateva in I Heart Music, Pass the Popcorn.
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“To be acknowledged at this time in our lives after all these years is unbelievable for me as an individual and also for the rest of the Funk Brothers…You’d have thought with all those great records back in the day, it would have happened for us but it didn’t.  But better late than never.  This is the high point of our careers.”  –Bob Babbitt, Funk Brothers’ bassist

shadowsmotownEveryone can name Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and The Temptations, but few knew the band that played on those records.  Motown’s Berry Gordy gathered the best musicians in Detroit to serve as the house band for Motown Records, but was not credited on the albums until 1971.  These unsung heroes became known as the Funk Brothers.  As the opening narration states, “They played on more number one records than the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley combined.” The film brings the musicians all together for the first time in 30 years for a show and to tell their story.  The film plays like one big jam session with a mix of first-hand storytelling and contemporary artists accompanying the band on Motown’s biggest hits.

This movie evolved from Allan Sluthsky’s book  Standing In the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson. Sluthsky is a musician himself and labored for years to find the funding for the film project.  It’s evident that the Brothers are truly happy to be together again and have their story made known to the world.  One amazing scene takes us through the layering technique of The Temptations’ “Ain’t to Proud to Beg.”  The drum starts, then the bass, throw in the guitar, and finally the tambourine, and you have the classic Motown sound.  As the Motown execs loosened the production grip the Funk Brothers moved into their psychedelic phase, especially on The Temptations’ “Cloud Nine” album.  Then abruptly Motown moved its operations to Los Angeles leaving the Funk Brothers without their main source of income.  Some followed the company there, but the sound was never the same without the collective group.


Starring the Funk Brothers: Richard Allen, Jack Ashford, Bob Babbitt, Johnny Griffith, Joe Hunter, Uriel Jones, Joe Messina, Eddie Willis
With Gerald Levert, Chaka Khan, Joan Osborne, Meshell Ndegeocello, Boosty Collins, Ben Harper
Narrated by Andre Braugher

Directed by Paul Justman

See also: Motown 50 & Xtra Xtra: Motown

Xtra, Xtra: Motown January 14, 2009

Posted by Wheneva Whateva in I Heart Music, Xtra Xtra.
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Before I give you the Xtra, Xtra I wanted to share my music experience from last night.  This is a true testament of the universality of music.  I was in the library last night looking for the Standing In the Shadows of Motown DVD. (Sidenote: I really wanted to do a mini review for you, but they couldn’t find it on the shelf.  So stay tuned!)  As I was chatting with the librarian, who’s an older white man, two other patrons were also waiting at the counter and overheard the conversation.  The older black woman joked with me “What you know about Motown?  You’re not old enough.”  I told her I wanted to see it as part of my celebration of the 50th anniversary.  We ended up spending an extra 20 minutes talking about our favorite Motown songs and artists.  That conversation completely erased my disappointment of not getting the DVD.

And, now back to our regularly scheduled program…Here’s a little Xtra, Xtra.  Enjoy!

Motown 25

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Motown 50 January 13, 2009

Posted by Wheneva Whateva in Black Is Beautiful, I Heart Music.
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motown50Motown Records celebrated 50 years on January 12.  The record label was founded by Berry Gordy in Detroit, Michigan in 1959 as Tamla Records.  It was the first record label to be owned by and African-American and feature African-American singers and musicians who acheived crossover sucesss.  Legendary acts signed to the label include The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Jackson 5, Gladys Knight, and the Commodores.

Many of the early hits known as the “Motown sound” were written by Holland-Dozier-Holland (Eddie & Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier) and were backed by a group of studio musicians known as “The Funk Brothers.”  It’s first #1 hit was The Miracles’ “Shop Around.”  The label had 110 Top Ten hits from 1961 to 1971.

By the 1970s Motown shifted its operations to Los Angeles and branched out to include movie production.  Films released through Motown Productions include Lady Sings the Blues, Mahagony, and The Wiz.

Motown will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary throughout the year.  Check out the official Motown Classic website.  And if you’re missing any Motown albums visit Amazon’s Motown page.