Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking Column Eleven

Berry Gordy
Berry Gordy Michael Jackson: This Is It (DVD) Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: The Definitive Collection Four Tops: Something To Remember – The Casablanca Sessions The Complete Introduction To Tamla Motown Brian Southall: The Rise And Fall Of EMI Records Valerie Simpson: The Collection Thelma Houston: Ultimate Motown - Divas Of Motown 13/11/09 The Temptations & Four Tops U.K Tour 2010 Standing In The Shadows Of Motown (The Motion Picture) Standing In The Shadows Of Motown (The sound track) The T.A.M.I. Show Collector’s Edition Al Abrams and Berry Gordy @Motown 50th Anniversary Gala copyright@N.C Abrams Al Abrams, Martha Reeves & Pete Moore (Miracles) 09/11/09 copyright@N.C. Abrams Diana Ross; Diana – Rarities Rick James: Street Songs - Rarities Marvin Gaye; What’s Going On – Rarities Susaye Greene Tour de4Force’s long awaited debut CD 'Quiet Moon'

It’s a new dawn, a new day. And a new year! Twenty ten! My very belated wishes and good vibes for just the best year ever. And - we’re still celebrating Motown’s 50th anniversary because Berry Gordy said the celebrations would last two years – so he should know! He also told journalist Susan Whitall that there could never be another Motown – “To have another Motown you’d need another perfect storm. You don’t have the sixties, the Civil Rights movement, Woodstock, a lot of things. It was a creative period in our history, that’s why there will be other companies, other things, but another Motown! How are you going to duplicate a Marvin Gaye, a Levi Stubbs, a Smokey Robinson, a Gladys Knight and the Pips, a Rick James?”

First things first...

Thanks for your patience here. As many of you know, I went into hospital at the beginning of December for an operation on my right hand. I write with that hand – although have perfected an almost passable scrawl with my left hand – but, generally speaking, haven’t been able to do anything much at all. Am now overseeing the typing of this. Y’know the sort of thing – I talk and shout while another types; it’s very slow, extremely tiring and painful to watch. But, hey, we’ll get there!. Being incapacitated like this meant I had time on my hands – no pun intended! – so I read a lot and listened to loads of music. Far too much to list here. Well, ok, here’s just a handful then. Divas Of Motown (more about this later on); Michael Jackson’s This Is It, a well presented, eye catching package if ever there was one, housing some of the most innovatively (eh?) exciting music of our lifetime. But, hell, you don’t need me to tell you that! What else? Smokey and the Miracles’ The Definitive Collection and loads of the Four Tops of course, like Something To Remember – The Casablanca Sessions cds (which, incidentally, I sent to Levi Stubbs’ daughter Deborah, who loved ‘em.). Then I delved into the beckoning packaging of The Complete Introduction To Tamla Motown and allowed myself to become lost in memories as I looked at the many artist pictures alongside record labels and album sleeves (which prompted thoughts like “I’ve got that somewhere”) and tour posters reminding me of some I missed and others I hadn’t. Brian Southall’s notes are refreshingly informative (was given his latest book The Rise And Fall Of EMI Records for Christmas – thanks Carly) but there’s just a couple of nigglies. I wasn’t one of Motown’s secretaries when I chose Tears Of A Clown for single release (see The Complete Motown Singles Volume 10:1970) and Diana Ross’ All Of My Life wasn’t a track on The Last Time I Saw Him but rather my beloved Touch Me In The Morning (and more about that later). I then dug out – not literally! – Valerie Simpson’s The Collection which, as you know, holds tracks from two of her solo milestone albums for Motown, namely Exposed in 1971 and Valerie Simpson a year later. By the way, also in ’72 the Nick And Val album was scheduled on the Tamla label but canned, leaving Keep It Coming as Val’s last released work there in 1977. Her first album came about she once told me because - “we actually had extra material at the time that we didn’t need for someone else, so we thought we might as well do it on me. Motown didn’t quibble about it, but they didn’t do much either.” That aside, the material is sublime (even all these years later). Check out Love Woke Me Up This Morning, I Don’t Need No Help or Back To Nowhere. In the sleeve notes of The Collection, Valerie told journalist/author Charles Waring that Love Woke..” was first recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and that - “it’s one of those songs that you think is going to do well because you like it so much and then nobody really picks up on it which is why I probably wanted to do it again. ..” Of Back To Nowhere she said – “It’s kind of a beautiful ballad. I’ve always loved that song. It’s probably one that I should pass off to someone else.” Nobody could sing it like you do Miss Simpson! Biased? What me?!

Shortly before “hand day” I managed to clear my desk before discovering that I could no longer access my Blues and Soul email address [Ed- that wasn't a hint Sharon honest!?] no . So, if you’ve not received a reply that’s the reason I’m afraid, and not because I couldn’t be arsed. Could mention names here, but won’t! Anyway, there’s now a lot of activity going on behind the scenes in computer land to get things back to normal. (Are we back on track now Mr Editor sir?) [Ed- Almost;)] Anyway, one of the last emails I received was from Steve Smith. Among other things, he wrote he loved reading about other Motown fans favourite songs and sent me his list. So, as I’ve been unable to contact him – let’s surprise him!

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Walk Away From Love – David Ruffin
Do What You Gotta Do – Four Tops
Truly Yours – The Spinners
What Does It Take – Jr Walker and the All Stars
My Baby – The Temptations
Ask The Lonely – Four Tops
Someday We’ll Be Together – Diana Ross and the Supremes
Ooo Baby Baby – The Miracles
I Don’t Know Why - Stevie Wonder

I don’t know whether they’re in any particular order or not, but a simply excellent choice young sir! Love ‘em all! Steve also asks what my favourites are and, I have to say, the only way I’ve been able to do this in the past is to make lists of favourite male and female soloists, groups, duetists, and so on. Yep, it’s called cheating!!


And moving on - d’ya remember last time I moaned that I’d missed Thelma Houston singing a divine version of Do You Know Where You’re Going To? Well, my guardian angel, Mr Russell, took up the challenge and found me a You Tube performance of the lady singing the song. I’m so grateful and it’s just wonderful! A super start to the new year. I’m sure Mr Editor will find Thelma’s performance for you and print the link just here, or maybe just here [Editor - You rang?] Do You Know Where You’re Going To?


On the touring front now - The Temptation and the Four Tops will be with us in March. The dates are part of their European tour, and include our arenas up and down the country. Check your local press for more information. And talking of touring, this brings me to last year’s Divas Of Motown concerts. I’ve been in regular contact with Chris Pleydell from Legends Touring International who, as you know, were responsible for the recent shows in London. All were sell out events, leaving audiences begging for more. Chris tells me that he has access to the Motown family, including the ladies – Thelma, Chris, and so on - and they’re very keen to tour across the UK. But, unless Chris can show a demand for this type of show, he can’t bring the artists back. The heart of the problem is quite simple, does an audience care if they’re watching and paying for the original Motown artists on stage, or just a bunch of talented artists singing their songs? I suppose the real bottom line is – are fans willing to pay that extra £10/£20 to see the original artists, or would they sooner keep the cash, and support anyone who sings the songs on stage? Chris has already secured some dates but not enough to present a whole tour. One way forward here if you’d like to see the concerts, would be for you guys to lobby your local venues and/or generate email and media support. Anyway, over to you m’dears. If you’ve got any ideas or want to contact Chris, I’ll be happy to pass ‘em on to him.


Also, my colleague Jeanne across the Atlantic updated me about The Motown Event starring Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Miracles, the Four Tops, The Temptations and Mary Wilson. Joining them are Joan Osborne (who, as you know, starred with the Funks in the wonderful Standing In The Shadows Of Motown movie), and soul singers Ian Moss and Jimmy Barnes. The gala concert will feature over 35 big hits; all the artists will have their own spot and, in true Motown Revue fashion, will come together for the finale. Great eh? However, there’s a downside for us I fear, because the concerts are being staged in New Zealand and Australia between 13-28 February, as part of the continuing 50th anniversary celebrations. For more information though and some groovy videos do visit


New releases now. Coming up in March is The T.A.M.I. Show Collector’s Edition (1964) dvd. (Teenage Awards Music International or Teen Age Music International). At time of writing this, it appears the dvd is only available Stateside but, who knows, that could change. For younger readers now, this is the first time this legendary film has been available on dvd, and, apparently, it hasn’t been viewed in full since its original US screening in 1964. That’s all the background I have, so here’s some of the performing acts – Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Miracles, James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry and The Beach Boys. By the way, the movie was also the first of its type of the rock era and as such has always been in great demand. Methinks any bootleg copies will now be obsolete, don’t you? On the cd front, there’s some very positive rumblings going on about the pending release of The Supremes’ Final Sessions 1973-1977 but as of now, I don’t have any track listing to pass on. All I know is that the hold up is a legal one. However, my pal Nick Strange has sent me a mock sleeve which you’ll see at the top of this page. Meantime, the following releases I can confirm but take heed, they’re not what they seem – Diana Ross’ Diana – Rarities; Rick James’ Street Songs - Rarities and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On – Rarities. During 1980 when Motown was celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Diana album (with a small ‘d’ but my computer won’t let me do it!) was one of several strong releases of the year. This was indeed great news for her because her flagging career needed reviving. The album sleeve was alien to her sophisticated grooming we’d come to expect, but the ploy of her dressed in tattered jeans and t-shirt worked, as the handful of singles extracted hit the UK chart one after the other, while the album itself sold over one million copies setting Diana up as an extremely attractive purchase. Indeed, RCA Records were only too happy to oblige. Anyhows, this Diana – Rarities isn’t that wonderful 1980’s release at all, but rather a re-packaging of disc 2 from 2003’s “Deluxe Edition”. Now let’s turn to Rick James’ Street Songs – Rarities which is certainly not the groundbreaking 1981 album which elevated funk/R&B into the pop market with Give It To Me Baby, Super Freak, Ghetto Life and the wonderful Fire And Desire, a duet with his protégé Teena Marie. Rather, it’s disc 2 from his “Deluxe Edition”, a live concert from Long Beach, California. And, so to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On – Rarities. Yes, you’ve guessed it. The same applies. His iconic album from 1970, which followed the death of his lovely singing partner, Tammi Terrell, and his retirement from the business to live in a self-imposed exile, was originally rejected by Berry Gordy. Marvin retaliated by saying if it wasn’t released he’d never record for Motown again. Berry relented and released the album’s title track as a single. When sales of this hit beyond the sky, Motown couldn’t issue the mother album quick enough – and the rest is history, my friends. I don’t know the thinking behind these releases, except as a collector’s “catch-up” from the Deluxe Edition series maybe, but certainly they’re attracting flak from fans who believe they’ve been conned. A change of artwork might have alleviated this because the small print isn’t often noticed on packaging, particularly when buying on line or via other mail order.


However, what I am excited about is Diana’s Touch Me In The Morning – Expanded Edition due to be released on 23 February. It’s newly remastered with unreleased mixes and at least two alternate versions of the title track. However, the original album is my all-time favourite Diana release, and when the single of the same name was issued it was nominated for a Grammy and climbed to the pole position in America. British response was lacklustre by comparison, I’m ashamed to admit, as it peaked at number nine. I won’t go on about this now because I’m writing a separate piece to celebrate the February release.


Thanks to Motown’s one-time publicist Al Abrams, I’m able to bring you a couple of exclusive visuals from a 50th Anniversary Gala held last November. Actually, there were two celebrations - the first at the Roostertail, where, during the sixties, Berry Gordy used to stage Motown Mondays, while the second was a black tie affair at the GM Renaissance Center. The 50th anniversary of Motown is to celebrate you. It took a lot of people, the whole of Detroit, to make our success”. Berry Gordy told the 200 or so guests at the Roostertail, after he was mobbed by fans who wanted his autograph and his attention . Artists attending were Martha Reeves, The Miracles’ Claudette Robinson, Frances Nero, The Marvelettes’ Katherine Schaffner, The Velvelettes’ Millie Arbor and Norma Fairhurst, among others. Levi Stubbs’ widow Cleinice and James Jamerson’s widow Annie also attended with Maxine Powell. The evening gala included performances from The Temptations, led by sole original member Otis Williams. They sang a selection of their hits like My Girl and Papa Was A Rolling Stone. Then Aretha Franklin followed to sing We Never Said Goodbye with re-written lyrics relevant to Berry Gordy. But it was Stevie Wonder who stole the evening with a sensational performance that included Isn’t She Lovely aimed at Esther Gordy Edwards, who was devoted to Stevie during his early career. She’s also the founder of the Motown Museum which benefited from the $350-a-head cover ticket. Motown heroes were also honoured that night, like Janie Bradford, Raynoma Singleton, Smokey Robinson, together with memorial tributes to Levi Stubbs, Michael Jackson and Norman Whitfield. And before bringing this news item to an end, Berry Gordy told The Detroit News that Motown was built on love and competition – "Love for the artists, love for the songs, but still competition. All this is part of the celebration to help preserve the legacy of Hitsville USA, the Museum. It’s very important for us to get the message out, for people to understand how Motown was made.” Incientally, Al’s visuals are credited to N C Abrams, with our sincere thanks.

We’re drawing to an end, but before we do, here’s our rolling section -

What Motown’s 50th Anniversary Means To Me

Supreme Miss Susaye Greene

It's impossible for me to look back and think of American music without the influence of Motown. Motown helped the world broaden its perspective about black talent and opened doors for other artists who came after. But for me personally, Motown always represented classy entertainment, good clean American fun, leading the industry with the great dancing grooves or the romantic ballads, the newest styles, the most popular music even as they danced forward politically..

This many years later, many of those songs still pull at all of our heartstrings. Motown fifty, marred by the death of one of its greatest former stars, Michael Jackson, is a pivotal moment of truth for popular music: Time is passing and we can never go back.

True, Michael went on after leaving Motown, to become the King of Pop, but he stands as a shining example of great talent found by Motown and presented to the world as only Motown could. It's hard to believe so many years have come and gone, with Motown music reaching out to the world still, a new generation dancing, singing and finding joy and inspiration from Motown music; well crafted songs, great tracks, terrific musicians, first class show business, all crowned by an ideal. The sound of young America has become the sound of the blueprint of modern American popular music.

And finally...

Before I’m told I write too much, a few MT notes ...Jimmy Levine tells me that Mrs Anna Gordy Gaye reads Motown Tracking – a great honour. Am still hopeful of an interview…It’s Thelma Houston Day in West Hollywood on 29 January to honour all her charity work through the years…Michael Jackson takes centre stage again for a new exhibition at the New Art Gallery in Walsall. Entitled Party!, the exhibition marks the 10th anniversary of the gallery, and, among the many works on display is Dangerous, a life-sized bronze statue of Michael created by Chinese artist Yang Mian, and reflects the artist’s interest in American pop culture. The exhibition also features over fifty artists and an array of paintings, sculptures, photographs and prints that explore the theme of party – from singing and dancing, to food, drink, dress and decoration, mixing revelry with darker elements. Party! opens on 12 February through to 18 April, and the gallery’s address is Gallery Square, Walsall WS2 8LG. Oh, and admission’s free. If you need to know more, visit Tour de4Force’s long awaited debut cd Quiet Moon was released on 15 January on Ocean Wave Music. Check out poster….

As it feels like this has taken forever to get together, I’m gonna take to my bed for a week to recover! So til next time...

Love Sharon xxx


Please feel free to contact Sharon at with any Motown news that you feel would benefit others - Thank you.

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