|Taken this morning with flurries falling. The Snake Pit is in the basement.
Barry Gordy, Jr.’s apartment was upstairs. There are three bottles of
Coca Cola in the apartment. Mr. Gordy and I share similar taste in pop.
|Screen capture from “Standing in the Shadows of Motown”
Joan Osborne singing “Heatwave” with (from left) Funk Brothers
Joe Hunter and Jack Ashford
That is what Barry Gordy, Jr., the founder and entrepreneur, called his little complex of homes on West Grand that became the offices and studios of Tamla then Motown records. It is now officially called the Motown Museum. Gordy borrowed $800 from his Mom and Dad on condition he pay it back in a year. He did, and much more.
Standing in the Snake Pit
Seeing the Snake Pit and all of the little techniques they used to polish the sound would have been enough. But, there is so much more.
The Reason Dianna Ross Could Always Perfectly Pose for Pictures
When Little Stevie Wonder started with Motown he was 11. Diana Ross was 14. Kids.
So, Gordy realized that their vocal talent was not sufficient. He hired a number of people, like Maxine Powell (above), to coach them on their voice techniques, pose for pictures, move on stage (there is an area where they explain how the choreographer taught The Temptations to move) and how to conduct themselves. There is even a video of some of them being introduced to Queen Elizabeth.
There are displays of how the original album art was created. In the early days, the artists did not appear on the album covers. Gordy was afraid that showing the artists as being black would limit their appeal. That changed when Ed Sullivan embraced them. Gordy, and the artists, found white America loved their music.
At Last, Recognition
|From left, Robert White (who played the guitar into to “My Girl”),
Dan Turner, Earl Van Dyke, Uriel Jones and James Jamerson
But, still, the Funk Brothers received no recognition. It wasn’t until Marvin Gaye’s (current featured artist in the museum) What’s Going On that any of the names of the instrumental artists even appeared on the album jacket.
Finally, in 2002, the Funk Brothers won two Grammies. One with Chaka Khan for her great performance of What’s Going On in Shadows and for the movie’s soundtrack. In 2004, they won for Lifetime Achievement.
|Funk Brothers posting with the two producers (at right)
with their Grammies for “Shadows’” soundtrack.
Unfortunately, we’re continuing to lose the Funk Brothers to age. At least two (Uriel Jones and Joe Hunter) have passed away since the movie was made.
Standing in the Shadows of Motown, their story, came out 41 years after they first provided the instrumental music for all of those many, many, hits. I highly recommend the movie (it has been running on cable lately, also available on DVD). And, if you are ever in Detroit, go visit. You won’t be sorry.
Checking this item off my “bucket list” this morning was a tremendous thrill.
Tomorrow: I’ll have a couple of thoughts about Detroit itself.
ADDITION: Shadows is available on iTunes to rent for $3 or to purchase for $10. I’m right now purchasing a copy to watch on the plane back tomorrow, even though I have the DVD.