Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Column

SHARON DAVIS' MOTOWN TRACKING

Michael Jackson R.I.P
Michael Jackson R.I.P Stevie Wonder's House Brian & Eddie Holland with Lamont Dozier The Commodores Motown Fanthology The Motown On Tour Show (50th Anniversary) The Confessions of Rick James: Memories of a Superfreak Scherrie Payne Simon Bell

A little late this time Iâm afraid because Iâve been taking a break on a small sunny island situated close to Malta. Staying with friends, I was treated like royalty as the sun warmed the cockles of my heart. Then when I stepped off the plane at Gatwick the rain greeted me. Ah, nothing changes! And itâs still raining here in East Sussex. However, thereâs a smile on my face as 'Dancing In The Street' is being played on Gold. What an uplifting song that is? It never fails to make you feel good. What say you? Letâs TCB..

MICHAEL JACKSON

I didnât intend to talk about Michael Jackson too much this time. Iâve paid my respects and so have many of you. Some to me personally, but others publicly as our website proves. Heâll always be in our thoughts because his music will never die. However, Iâm sure I speak on behalf of you all when I say - please leave the manâs memory alone! Iâm sick and tired of reading about so-called exclusives from all these mischief makers grabbing five minutes of fame; of the rumours â who killed him, someone has to take the blame, etc, and countless headlines declaring all manner of suspect things from people claiming to know him intimately. Nothing will bring him back to his children, family and us, so the least we could be is respectful in death. Itâs a monumental tragedy in our lifetime, and we must try to live with the after effect in the best way we can. And thatâs personal to each one of us. However, I felt I couldnât let this moment pass without mentioning Diana Ross who, once again, retained a dignified silence when âcriticisedâ for not instantly jumping on the MJ bandwagon immediately following his death with quotes and memories of their time together. Like others including Elizabeth Taylor and Quincy Jones, Diana didnât attend the memorial, and issued a statement to this effect. âI am trying to find closure. I want you to know that even though I am not at the Staples Centre, I am there in my heart. I have decided to pause and be silent. This feels right for me. Michael was a personal love of mine, a treasured part of my world, part of the fabric of my life in a way that I canât seem to find words to express.â When it became public that Michael had, in a will drawn up during 2002, wanted Diana to be Prince Michael, Paris and Prince Michael IIâs guardian if his mother, Katherine, was unable to look after them, the family, by all accounts, challenged the will. Nonetheless, Diana made it clear she would take responsibility for them â âMichael wanted me to be there for his children, and I will be there if they ever need meâ was her response. In a latest statement, Latoya Jackson told the media that they believe thereâs another will in existence â â(Michael) updated his will almost every five years, so we expect one to come from 2007. Michael always told us that he wanted his eldest sister, Rebbie, to look after his children. Rebbie had a nice family, which Michael loved. He told many family members that she was his choice.â Despite what sad-minded gossips want the world to believe, thereâs no animosity between Diana and the family. Quite the contrary, and this is borne out when Diana said â âThank you Katherine and Joe for sharing your son with the world and me. I send my love and condolencesâ¦â Before leaving Michael in this edition, Iâm pleased to tell you that Hello World:The Motown Solo Collection is to be released here on 31 August. Itâs a lavish 3-cd package featuring every one of his solo recordings for Motown spanning 1971 â 1975 plus those titles released after he and his brothers left the company for CBS. This includes the Farewell My Summer Love and Looking Back To Yesterday projects, while a further surprise appears with an unreleased cover version of Edwinâs Twenty-Five Miles. A second project, previously released online earlier this month, is now being issued on cd in a few days time. Apparently, less than an hour after his memorial service, Michael Jackson: The Stripped Mixes, a collection of his finest with/without his brothers was scheduled. Using the original Motown session tapes, these new mixes strip away certain instruments and studio âfrillsâ to focus instead on the essence of the recordings â Michaelâs voice with his brothersâ harmonies. Canât see the sense myself, but hey, there must be buyers â probably DJs â who want alternative tracks to play. Anyway, the titles include Iâll Be There, Ben, I Want You Back, ABC and Got To Be There. Also, do you remember Michaelâs famous dazzling moon walk on Motown 25; Yesterday, Today, Forever from 1983? Well, it appears there are plans to release this historic gala on dvd. Of course, it wonât only feature him and his brothers, but a host of Motown acts paying their musical respects to Berry Gordy. Iâm afraid have no more details now, but watch this space. Weinerworld are also issuing a dvd but this was planned prior to his death. Unfortunately, Please Mr Postman hasnât delivered it to me yet, so canât give you any more details now. Next time (Editor: It's on it's way Ms. Davis).

STEVIE'S ON THE MOVE

OK, letâs move on. One of Stevie Wonderâs homes in Los Felizâs Chislehurst Drive, Los Angeles has been sold for $2,407,000. For that price the buyer got a select des-res of fourteen rooms, including five bedrooms, five bathrooms in a two storey, Spanish-style, red tiled, white washed house of 4,5111 square feet which was built in 1928. Additional features include a motor court with 3-car garage, a double staircase located in a rotunda like entrance hall, a large family living room with fireplace and magnificent city views, a swimming pool with adjacent pool house and a basement that could possibly be converted into a theatre. Stevie purchased this house in October 1979 for $435,5000 and is one of several properties, both residential and commercial, that Stevie owns in the Los Angeles area. Thereâs some pictures of the house here somewhere taken from the Real Estalker.

THE FIRST WIVES CLUB

From Stevie to The First Wives Club â and no I havenât lost it! Read onâ¦based on a book by Rupert Holmes, this Broadway-bound musical is based on the film with â wait for it! â music and lyrics by Brian and Eddie Holland, and Lamont Dozier! More when I have it. Thanks Kevin Melville for that.

A SUPREME DOCUMENTARY

I meant to have mentioned this before but obviously I got sidelined. Ex-Supreme Florence Ballard was the subject of on a tv documentary recently. Interviews with her sister Maxine Ballard Jenkins; one of her biographers Peter Benjaminson (who wrote a blinding thesis about her life and death); Motownâs original PR Al Abrams (whoâs been an absolute treasure to me) and The Temptationsâ Otis Williams, among others, were included on Unsung: Florence Ballard . But the real coup was Flo herself, when viewers heard her voice that has been silent for over thirty years. She explained how sheâd been expelled from the group during 1967, following run ins with Berry Gordy over being too fat and too drunk. âI began to drinkâ her voice explained about one sequence in her life. âAnd I would walk at night. It was like I was in a daze. OK, the moneyâs gone, the carâs gone and now theyâre going to take my house.â When 32 year old Florence died suddenly in 1976 from a coronary thrombosis, many rumoured it was suicide. Maxine has always been insistent this certainly wasnât the case. âShe would never have left her daughters behind. (And) the last show she did, the benefit at Ford Auditorium, she got a standing ovation. She wanted to live!â When Maxine was asked how her sister would feel being talked about so long after her passing, she said âI think she would be smiling!â Maybe one day weâll also get the chance to see this programme. Or can somebody help me out now??

COMMODORES - Will they?

And to the Commodores. Will they/wonât they reunite with Ronald LaPread, Thomas McClary and Lionel Richie??!! Well, the rumours have lasted for as long as I can remember, and nothing whatsoever has come of them. Now the group have taken matters into their own hands (members Clyde Orange, WAK King and JD Nicholas) to say there is definitely no reunion tour in the pipeline. Itâs hard to believe, but the first discussions about this possibility took place as far back as 1990 with many conversations in between, and although the group now state itâs not gonna happen, theyâve never dismissed the idea entirely. On the other hand, a positive-sounding Lionel has gone so far to commit to print that the reunion is on its way to becoming a reality. Probably at the end of this year. No, I donât know what to make of it either! But itâd be really something if it was to happen eh? Another group to mention here â The Miracles. Early August sees the release of The Miracles Depend On Me: The Early Albums, a 2-cd package which, as the title suggests features Hi! Weâre The Miracles, Cookinâ With The Miracles, Iâll Try Something New, The Fabulous Miracles and Recorded Live On Stage. One to look out for methinks.

VOTE FOR YOUR FAV MOTOWN SONG!... Again!?

Guys! Weâve been asked to create another Motown album. This time the compilation will be called Motown 50 Fanthology to be released in September. Didnât we do this once before? And wasnât the compilation tweaked before its release, so it didnât represent what weâd voted for after all?? Mmm. If youâre interested check out www.classic.motown.com/vote

FEELIN LUCKY?

More general news - Scratch off lottery tickets featuring pictures of soul acts are on sale in the US. The Four Tops and Marvin Gaye represent Motown, along side Freda Payne and The Dramatics. Like all these things, chances of winning are thousands to one, yet tickets are being gobbled up in their hundreds and hundreds because theyâll become collectorsâ items one day, and be worth a few bob more than the ticket price. And a show being advertised as

Um MOTOWN?

The 50th Anniversary Motown On Tour Show featuring the hits of Stevie, Marvin, Jackson 5 and more, doesnât include a single company act. Instead the bill comprises Alexander OâNeal, George McCrae, Heatwave, Right Said Fred, Rose Royce and Aswad, with special guests Womack & Womack, the ultimate Earth Wind & Fire and Kool As The Gang. Um, am I wrong in thinking this is like a âcash inâ, or should I be more generous and say itâs an honour to have these acts paying tribute to Motownâs glorious anniversary? At the moment I canât make up my mind. Now if you want the real, genuine artists check out The Divas Of Motown and the London dates (Hammersmith Apollo and Jazz Café) released so far advertising the presence of Mable John, Chris Clark, Thelma Houston, Brenda Holloway, Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence and Jack Ashfordâs Funk Brotherâs Band. Ainât nothing like the real thing.

THE CONFESSIONS OF RICK JAMES

I intended to include two book reviews here â Terry Wilsonâs Tamla Motown â The Stories Behind The UK Singles and The Confessions Of Rick James â Memoirs Of A Super Freak. Unfortunately thereâs only room for the latter now but Terry next time, I promise. Iâve mentioned Rickâs book in a previous MT, saying it wasnât for the weak hearted, or some such thing. And I reiterate that now that Iâve finished reading it. Rickâs language is basic in the extreme; his sexual and drug appetites are graphically described and he works his way through too many relationships â some long term, others not. Leaving a lot out, hereâs a brief insight into this fabulously innovate artist. Born James Ambrose Johnson Jr in Buffalo, NY, on 1 February 1948, Rick was raised in a family of eight; four boys and four girls. He grew up the hard way before finding music, girls and dope. After some false starts that included producing for A&M Records, Motown agreed to release his Come Get It album which he financed himself, and from which his debut single You And I was lifted in 1978. With a potential hit on his hands, Rick braided his hair and hit the promotion trail with coke as his companion. The album passed platinum and as he prepared to complete his second, Bustinâ Out, he was asked to produce Diana Ross. Heâd written Sucker For Love for her, devised the album cover showing her wearing ripped up jeans and leather, looking at her old self, dressed up like a Supreme, lying in a coffin. Diana loved it all. One thing led to another and it never happened. Teena Marie went on to record a magnificent version of Sucker For Love, a track on her debut Motown album which Rick produced for her. The book is full of quirky stories and that one in particular sticks out in my mind. By 1980 everything Rick touched turned to gold and platinum, and the rollercoaster of rock, funk and soul began at an alarming rate. By the time Street Songs was issued in 1981 Rick was freebasing $3-4000 every week. He was crashing out of control â like he did several times before he checking and re-checking himself into rehab - as his life of a dope-fuelled superstar knew no limits. He sold millions of records; was publicly disgraced; made fortunes and lost them; was destitute and hounded; before being incarcerated for three years. He used the time wisely by writing this book, his autobiography, and penning three hundred songs. Without a shadow of doubt, Rick James was an extraordinary man; whether by design or accident he changed music with his explosive mix of punk funk fusion; he crossed the line from R&B to break down racial barriers to spark a sound that was as radical as he was. When he felt material wasnât suitable for him, he ploughed them into his family of music â The Stone City Band, Val Young, Mary Jane Girls, Bobby M, Process & the Doo Rags and Kenny Hawkins. From Motown, Rick moved to Mercury in 1997 to release Urban Rhapsody, his first album in ten years.

Whatever Rick James wrote in his book we know him to be a musician and artist of the highest order; an articulate showman who fought demons most of his life. He died on 6 August 2004, an early death, due to the culmination of his drug-fuelled lifestyle. His body just couldnât cope any longer. Yes, The Confessions Of Rick James is a powerful read to which I was drawn from the first word. Published by Colossus Books and available via amazon.co.uk Highly recommended.

Last but certainly not least, our rolling section...

What Motownâs 50th Anniversary Means To Me

Guests this time are Simon Bell and Scherrie Payne

So here goes with ladies first â

âWell Sharon, to be truthful, I canât believe it has been 50 years since the start of Motown because Freda was actually Berry Gordyâs first female artist even before he had Motown. Although she was never officially signed to the company, she does have two or three songs on the very first reel of Motown. 001 Tape reel â I think it is Father Dear, Please Send Me A Star, something like that, and then The Moon Rock. Anyway, I canât believe itâs been 50 years. It makes me feel so old but Iâve seen it grow from just this little embryo to this gigantic force that it is today! And I am proud to think that even though I wasnât out front in those so-called âhey dayâ years of The Supremes when they had all the number one hits, I still was a part of it. And I was a part of that history and nobody can take that away from me. Motown forever!â

And, Simon Bell, who sang with Marvin Gaye and Dusty Springfield. He also hosts the Dusty Devotedly website. âWhat a shock to find that Motown is 50 years old. I didn't really become aware of the label till 1963. For me it was my curiosity; wanting to seek out the original versions of songs sung by The Beatles or Dusty. I found a shop in Glasgow that stocked imported singles. There I found early Martha & The Vandellas singles, and rarities like Carolyn Crawford. I'd never heard anything so uplifting. The musicians played in a simple, joyous fashion that thrilled me. When they came to Glasgow in 1965 I was there. At that time there was an American missile base near Glasgow so a large part of the Glasgow audience was made up of black Americans. I felt like I was at The Apollo! In later years when I regularly drove my friend Dusty to and from treatment for her cancer, we always sang along with The Marvelettes or Martha, and the cares of the world were goneâ.

Phew! Iâve packed in as much as I dare, so thatâs me done for another month. Keep the faith until next time.

Love
Sharon xxx

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Please feel free to contact SHARON DAVIS at B&S with any Motown news that you feel would benefit others - Thank you.

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