This week’s theme fits perfectly with these very exciting times, particularly in America, and consequently around the world.
Our theme, of course, was Motown – the label that defined itself not as the ‘Sound of Black America’ but as the ‘Sound of Young America’. In doing so, it broke soul and R & B out of the black ghetto and opened up the world to some of the greatest popular music ever made. Barack Obama, who grew up on Motown music, has done something similar. He presented himself brilliantly, not as a black candidate, but as a young candidate. And today, January 20, he will be sworn in as America’s first African American president. Yay!!! Have a look at this wonderful clip from an English television show, with a great line-up – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (what showmen!), The Supremes, Stevie Wonder and you’ll notice Dusty Springfield there in the background. Apparently she toured with the Motown Revue throughout the US during the 60s. They would have been incredibly interesting times, especially in the south where segregation was still an issue.
Looking back, its clear that Motown played an incredibly important role in the racial integretation of popular music. It was the first record label owned by an African American to primarily feature African-American artists who achieved crossover success. The label, Motown Records, was founded by Berry Gordy and the name is derived from the words motor and town and its also a nickname for Detroit, a centre of the automotive industry in the U.S.
The Supremes were one of the signature acts on Motown Records during the 60’s. They were the most commercially successful of Motown’s acts, with twelve of the group’s singles peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Most of these hits were written and produced by Motown’s main songwriting and production team, Holland, Dozier, Holland. At their peak, the Supremes rivaled The Beatles in worldwide popularity.
The Motown sound all came out of a modest two story house in Detroit which Berry Gordy called ‘Hitsville USA’. The building still stands and has become the Motown museum. The recording studio was a converted garage. Two days a week Gordy insisted that all artists, no matter how big, participated in ‘artist development’. Motown taught the artists how to deliver a song in the recording studio and trained them for the stage. The house band, the Funk Brothers, had the extraordinary bassist James Jamerson and drummer Benny Benjamin. Famed choreographer Cholly Atkins was hired to teach dance steps, bandleader Maurice King was the tour conductor and former actress and modeling school owner, Maxine Powell, groomed the acts and showed them how to conduct themselves on and off the stage.
The Funk Brothers used innovative techniques. For example most Motown records feature two drummers, playing together or overdubbing one another – Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ used three drummers. A number of songs utilised instrumentation and percussion unusual in soul music. Snow chains, tyre irons, whatever was on hand was put to use as a sound effect.
Check out this fantastic clip of Martha and the Vandellas singing ‘Nowhere to Run’, from the American show ‘Shindig’. The show’s dancers are an absolute hoot. Love, love, love that song.
We opened the show with Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ – one of Obama’s campaign theme songs. And then it was down to two hours of the creme de la creme of Motown music from its golden period, the 60’s. Marv Johnson’s ‘Come To Me’ was the label’s first release on January 12, 1959. We followed that with Barrett Strong’s ‘Money’ and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles with the first Motown record to sell a million copies, ‘Shop Around’. And, as you all know by now, I love Roy Orbinson but it was unlikely that I would find a song of his to fit the Motown show…. Hello! What about a mash up? Yep, sorry guys had to do it. I mashed ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘Stop in the Name of Love’. It wasn’t bad either!
Here’s the complete playlist:
Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours – Stevie Wonder
Come To Me – Marv Johnson
Money (That’s What I Want) – Barrett Strong
Shop Around – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Please Mr. Postman – The Marvelettes
Heatwave – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
My Guy – Mary Wells
Baby I Need Your Lovin´ – The Four Tops
The Way You Do The Things You Do – The Temptations
Medley: Stop in the name of love/Back in my arms again/Come See About Me/Love is like an itching in my heart/Baby Love- Diana Ross & The Supremes
Shotgun – Junior Walker & The All Stars
I Can´t Help Myself – The Four Tops
Nowhere To Run – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
The Tracks Of My Tears – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
My Girl – The Temptations
Uptight (Everything’s Alright) – Stevie Wonder
I Hear A Symphony – Diana Ross and The Supremes
You Can’t Hurry Love – Diana Ross & The Supremes
Reach Out I’ll Be There – The Four Tops
This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You) – The Isley Brothers
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg – The Temptations
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye
War – Edwin Starr
Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today) – The Temptations
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
ABC – The Jackson 5
Get Ready – Rare Earth
Aint No Mountain High Enough – Diana Ross
Stop! Pretty Woman! (Mashup) – The Supremes/Roy Orbinson
Dancing In the Streets – Martha and the Vandellas
Next week, we’re celebrating all things Australian.
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at ‘Theme Park’ at BayFM 99.9 Tuesdays 2-4pm, Sydney time. Also streaming at http://www.bayfm.org
Posted on January 22, 2009, in Broadcasting and media, community radio, Motown, music - nostalgia, music, r&b, music, soul, Radio Program, Roy Orbison, Uncategorized and tagged Motown. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.