Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

Welcome to B&S

BRINGING YOU THE STORIES BEHIND MUSIC + ESSENTIAL NEWS, REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS...

Column

SHARON DAVIS' MOTOWN TRACKING COLUMN

Scherrie Payne @bluesandsoul.com
Scherrie Payne @bluesandsoul.com Cindy Birdsong @bluesandsoul.com Photo thanks to Jim Saphin Cindy Birdsong artwork Ellie Greenwich Four Tops @bluesandsoul.com Motown 50: Fanthology Terry Wilson: Tamla Motown - The Stories Behind The UK Singles book. The Isley Brothers: The Motown Anthology David Van De Pitte Four Tops: One More Mountain (1982) Four Tops: Tonight The Miracles: Depend On Me - The Early Albums Smokey Robinson: Time Flies When You're Having Fun Smokey Robinson: Inside My Life Jr Walker & The All Stars: The Definitive Collection Gladys Knight and the Pips: The Definitive Collection The Velvelettes @bluesandsoul.com The Velvelettes @bluesandsoul.com Chris Williams & Kim Weston @bluesandsoul.com

I'm hopping mad and quite beside myself, so it's only fair that I tell you what's caused this - my Scherrie Payne interview. First off, I know many of you enjoyed the chat, because you've been good enough to tell me and I must admit I was rather delighted with the outcome. But, to lift the whole interview and place it in its entirety on another website is just not on. Not only wasn't I asked - and the copyright is wholly mine but its originating website wasn't credited either. In future, there will be no unauthorised copying or reproducing of my work from this site, apart from reviews. Our lawyer is watching. Now, I've got that off my chest, feel a bit better, so let's TCB.

GOING FOR A SONG

There's one thing I didn't know about and that's the artwork created by ex-Supreme Cindy Birdsong. Currently on ebay is number six of 13 pieces from her Thou Art Works collection. They're religious and inspirational, and drawn in the impressionist style. In each of the prints she's incorporated her own eye and mouth in designs using pastel and vibrant colours. Her authentic signature also appears on each print. So, if you're interested in more information, wiz an email to dimarflo@aol.com

MISS ELLIE GREENWICH & DAVID VAN DE PITTE
(Remembered)

It's now with a sad heart that I join others in sending condolences to the family of Motown arranger, David Van De Pitte who died last August from cancer. Born on 28 October 1941, David studied music at the Westlake College of Music, Los Angeles, where he mastered jazz, pop and classical music, and a variety of instruments including the bass. Through his pal James Jamerson, David joined Motown where he became staff arranger from 1968-72. To his credit are Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Let's Get It On albums; Ball of Confusion and Psychedelic Shack by The Temptations; If I Were Your Woman[ from Gladys Knight and the Pips, and the Four Tops Still Waters (Run Deep), among others. He was also a music director for live shows including those by Marvin, the Tops and Diana Ross Las Vegas shows. David was cremated privately, with a memorial concert in the pipeline.

Although Miss Ellie Greenwich wasn't part of the Motown family, she was a composer of considerable note, and her songs have earned her over 25 gold and platinum records with sales in the tens of millions. So, once again, with a sad heart we bid farewell to another great talent - Ellie died in August at the age of 68 in Manhattan, New York. Very briefly, she met and married Jeff Barry, and together they were co-writers of some of the most memorable contemporary songs of our lives. They worked in the Brill Building where her first hits were Jay and the Americans - This Is It, and The Exciters He's Got The Power. With Jeff, she formed The Raindrops and enjoyed hits like What A Guy and The Kind Of Boy You Can't Forget. Ellie also joined forces with Phil Spector, discovered Neil Diamond, and was considered one of New York's top session and demo singers. She went on to work with artists from all music genres- Dusty, Aretha, Ella, Sinatra, Cissy Houston and Bobby Darin. And, in later years, acts like Elton John, Tina Turner and Bette Midler covered her work.

YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE FANTHOLOGY... or do you?

The Motown 50:Fanthology album has just been released. I mentioned this last time because it was a project where Ume/Motown partnered with the People's Choice Awards to ask fans to select their favourite Motown song. Well, it appears that The Temptations My Girl was the top song, followed by a pair from Marvin's What's Going On and Let's Get It On. The Temptations Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) at four; The Miracles Tracks Of My Tears, five; Stevie's Superstition, six; Marvin's I Heard It Through The Grapevine and Marvin and Tammi's Ain't No Mountain High Enough, seven and eight; the Jackson 5's ABC, nine, and The Temptations again with Papa Was A Rolling Stone at number ten. Altogether Marvin held seven spots, while The Tempts held five. At four spots are Michael Jackson (three with his brothers); Diana Ross (as a soloist, with The Supremes and with Lionel Richie); and Lionel himself (as a soloist, with the Commodores and with Diana). The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Martha and the Vandellas, Rick James, Jr Walker and the All Stars, Smokey Robinson, Tammi Terrell (all with Marvin), Smokey Robinson and Boyz II Men, all scored two points each. Bringing up the rear, but not literally of course - are Teena Marie, Jimmy Ruffin and the Isley Brothers. It's a 2-cd set, but as I guess most of you already have the tracks, it'll be an attraction for mainstream record buyers.

THE ISLEY'S

Talking of the Isley Brothers, my pal Paul Nixon tells me he's just finished working on The Motown Anthology which is due for release at the end of this month. Not only did he devise and collate the track listing, he wrote the sleeve notes. This 2-cd collection holds all the brothers' early US and UK hits This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You), I Guess I'll Always Love You, Behind The Painted Smile, Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While but you don't need me to tell you them cos the titles are bound to be familiar. The Isley's popularity was so much larger over here because we loved that hard, sharp Motown beat, and although they were often criticised for covering other acts' work with songs like Nowhere To Run, it mattered not to us. We loved it all. Very much look forward to reviewing this later on. And thanks again Paul for yet another super compilation.

FOUR TOPS

As I mentioned the Four Tops earlier on as well, Shout Records are releasing two of their Casablanca albums Tonight and One More Mountain on one cd in October. More about that nearer the time of release. And the Tops again, with the news that at long last their studio sessions with The Supremes have been released. Following in the footsteps of the Diana Ross led Supremes duetting with The Temptations, it was decided to team up the Tops with the new Supremes, lead by Jean Terrell. As such they released three albums The Magnificent 7, The Return Of The Magnificent 7 and Dynamite. And we thought that was that. But, no, there's a rack of unreleased titles like It's Your Thing, and these join the three albums for release as Magnificent: The Complete Studio Duets. And I can't wait! Love this group combination as much as I did the Diana/Supremes and Temptations one. This just, once again, brings home, how innovative Motown were. And what a happy atmosphere was created by all the groups involved in these projects. Certainly, Motown magic!

WHEN SMOKEY SINGS... and talks

And there's more, because on 5 October a huge tribute to the talent of The Miracles is released with Depend On Me: The Early Albums. To be more precise, their first five albums appear on two cds, in a package showcasing exclusive visuals and extensive sleeve notes. Something to look forward to. Actually, I meant to have mentioned this before, but Smokey also celebrates his 50th anniversary in the business this year as well. And I'm sorry this has been overlooked until now. I'll do this justice with a fully-blown article in the future, but for now will plug his new studio album Time Flies When You're Having Fun, released on his own ROSO label. Among the tracks are duets with Joss Stone (You're The One For Me) and India.Arie (You're Just My Life). In his autobiography inside my life, Smokey wrote quite openly about his music, his personal life including the failure of his marriage, and his drug problems. He told Gail Mitchell in a recent Billboard magazine that he spoke at schools, churches, rehab facilities and so on hammering home the fact that drugs don't discriminate. [I was thirty-nine years old and my life was going exactly as I would have it go] "When you open yourself up to (drugs) you are vulnerable. And I was. You think drugs won't get the best of you, that you will never become an addict. ..It's a social thing and you call yourself having fun. Then you look up and that fun has wiped you out, like it did me. I did it for two years. I was a walking corpse, totally out of it." Well, it takes a very brave man to be that honest, that's for sure. But Smokey did it, he came out of his hell to enjoy life once again. He also told Gail that there were some things in his life he'd have done differently but would leave untouched the hardships because he felt - that builds your character. "Time is the greatest educator that we have. It gives you a great outlook on life and teaches you, if you're looking. In my case, I just hope I've made a positive imprint and that I will continue to do so." You certainly have Mr Robinson.

TERRY WILSON'S TAMLA MOTOWN
(The Stories Behind The UK Singles)

This links nicely into The Tears Of A Clown, an album track I chose as a single and thus giving The Miracles their first UK chart-topper in 1970. This has been in the public domain for some years now, which is why I was surprised to read in a recent book that it was a Tamla Motown employee who chose it. I was working for EMI Records, sure, but not Motown. I was, however, helping run Motown Ad Astra and co-editing the TCB magazine at the time. Yes, you've guessed it - The Tears Of A Clown was the first entry I looked for in Terry Wilson's Tamla Motown - The Stories Behind The UK Singles book, published by Cherry Red Books. Although I was a little disappointed in this, I've marvelled at all the details crammed into this book covering TMG releases between 1965 and 1976. By its very content, haven't read it from cover to cover, rather have been dipping into it when the need arises, or when I'm curious to see what Terry has to say about a certain release. For me, Motown has meant the music and the artists, and I've cared little for the machinations of recording sessions. When I worked for Motown, I left that to the product manager, while I concentrated on the publicity. Now, I see the relevance that information has with stalwart fans who want a broader picture. It's also another fact, but authors can never please everyone, no matter how hard they try. Personal opinions about a record are just that, and quite often it's a clearer way for a reader to understand the sound rather than quote beats-per-minute. There's little about Terry's book that isn't already available; there's five books of mine and four of J Randy Taraborrelli's alone listed, with others, in the reference section - but the patience and dedication he's used to collate all these facts together is quite awesome. He writes about Motown's history; record sleeve designs; artist summaries; information for collectors, and with each TMG release, lists song writers, producers, recording dates, B-sides, release date and chart positions: everything you need to know. Apparently, this book has picked up some adverse remarks along the line. Well, if I had one, it'd be about the lack of pictures. We've got the recording facts, now let's see the artists who turned those facts into music! That aside, well done Mr Wilson.

THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTIONS

I kinda dismissed The Definitive Collection series released earlier this year, but I hope to make up for that now because I've been playing Junior Walker & The All Stars. Often overlooked in this type of series, this compilation is really a non-stop party from the opening track Shotgun, into Shake And Fingerpop and How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). Nobody plays the sax like Junior, and as the cd progresses we hit the fast-lane with (I'm A) Road Runner, Pucker Up Buttercup, before changing pace with What Does It Take (To Win Your Love), These Eyes and [BWalk In The Night. When he died in November 1995, music missed his beat, that's for sure. At the moment though, I'm listening to Gladys Knight and the Pips The End Of Our Road, the second track in. I'm longing to hear again Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me, the summer song of '73, but, to be honest, anything that Gladys sings holds me mesmerised. The frenetic Just Walk In My Shoes and The Nitty Gritty gives way to the Grammy winner If I Were Your Woman, into Help Me Make It Through The Night and the last track All I Need Is Time. Love 'em all! More next month.

WHAT MOTOWN'S 50 ANNIVERSARY MEANS TO ME
(Chris Williams & 'Cal' from the The Velvelettes)

Now to our rolling section of What Motown's 50 Anniversary Means To Me. First out, is Chris Williams, ex-editor of Ladies Of Soul magazine

"Little did I realise, back in 1969-70 when I first became an avid Supremes fan that Motown would become part of my life for the next forty years or more. I progressed in discovering new artists both famous and obscure, collecting rare and unreleased tracks, travelling to see live Motown acts, meeting the artists, amassing a large collection of photos, records and memorabilia, culminating in visiting the Motor City to see Hitsville USA with Frances Nero as my personal guide. Motown 50 celebrations are long over due to celebrate this great musical legacy which Berry Gordy made possible. Although, sadly, many of the great artists have passed on, their music will always remain in my heart. I feel privileged to have been involved as a lifelong fan. Long may Motown continue"

Secondly, here's Cal, lead singer of The Velvelettes, one of my all-time favourite groups. So it's quite an honour for me -

"On behalf of The Velvelettes, I wish to express that being able to participate with the Motown alums in Detroit later this year, about mid November, at a Motown 50 gala/celebration will certainly be a great reunion, as Motown alums will converge on Detroit from across the US, as well as other countries! Being a part of the Motown 50 celebration means a great opportunity to have wonderful camaraderie with our Motown family as we celebrate the phenomenal, magical and timeless sound of Motown that is embraced all over the world! It will be a time to reminisce and share the happy and not so happy times with our fellow Motown alums. The Velvelettes feel very blessed to be a part of the Motown legacy. Through the years we've been enlightened when we appear on the same venue with other Motown artists. We have also been saddened at the loss of our fellow Motown alums, many of which have certainly "gone too soon." Many Motown alums have passed away, and with the most recent and sudden passing of our beloved brethren, Michael Jackson, it makes us feel even stronger now that we must stay in touch, remain connected, and have unconditional love for one another. There is much pride that we feel whenever we attend a Motown event, no matter how large or small. The Motown sound has transcended many generations since the late 1950s, and it will be forever revered by future generations. The incredible Motown sound will journey on into infinity because of its purity and classiness. The Velvelettes are always very happy to perform and/or interview, and make appearances in our communities, talking to people, both young and old, about our experiences at Motown. It's our favourite subject to talk about. Motown music has brought so much joy to its artists, fans and supporters all over the world. Peace and blessings are wished to Motown music fans all over the world, and The Velvelettes asked that you continue to show your love for Motown artists and their music. We certainly appreciate your dedication and loyalty."

Well, a glass of red wine beckons, so I'll call it a day. Will be back in a month, so til then, keep the faith. And, more importantly, thanks for your support. I really do appreciate it.

Love
Sharon Davis x

.

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

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

Join the B&S Mailing List

Blues and Soul on Twitter