Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Happy 50th Birthday Motown
Happy 50th Birthday Motown Thank You Berry Gordy Martha Reeves: Photo sent in by Ivan Constable Martha Reeves with Sharon Davis - Not too long ago;) The Contours The Miracles Kim Weston: Photo sent in by Chris Williams Son of Jackie Wilson, Bobby Brooks Hamilton as Jackie Wilson The Four Tops receive a lifetime Grammy award: Photo sent in by Ivan Constable Diana Ross & The Supremes: The Definitive Collection Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: The Definitive Collection Gladys Knight & the Pips: The Definitive Collection The Temptations: The Definitive Collection The Four Tops: The Definitive Collection The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 11A 1971: Released Feb 2nd The Supremes -  Greatest Hits' taped at Concertgebouw, Amsterdam in 1968 I’ve Never Been To Me: Charlene Oliver Bobby Martin Presents: Various Artists The Team Feat. Angelo Starr: Keeping The Faith

Good start to the new year I had – I don’t think! Confined to bed with an horrendous bout of flu (well, it was pretty bad) which nearly four weeks later has left me feeling extremely weak and willowy, but at least I’m free from the duvet. My sympathy goes to fellow suffers who probably didn’t make as much fuss as I just have. So, as the world went on its merry way around me, have spent the last few days on catch-up. This is the result – and thanks for your input guys, keep those emails comin’. `


On Monday, 12 January the place to be was Detroit, and in particular inside Hitsville USA. "Motown Day" was proclaimed in the city, county and state! The Museum’s chief Audley Smith introduced the Four Tops’ Duke Fakir, Vandella Rosalind Holmes, Miracle Bobby Rogers, Gil Bridges from Rare Earth, and studio musicians Dennis Coffey and Uriel Jones at a press conference held in Studio A. Local politicians, including Detroit’s mayor Ken Cockrel, also joined the party, and following his little speech, the Museum’s chairman, Robin Terry, granddaughter of Esther Gordy Edwards who founded Hitsville, read out a message from her great uncle Berry Gordy, who was elsewhere. Apparently he’d included a song for her to sing but she declined! She read that he was honoured they were celebrating the Motown legacy (because) “Motown music was for everybody, and it grew out of love. It has spread out all around the world and become part of the culture and consciousness on all seven continents.” He loved the city so much, he wrote, that he named his company after it to reflect his feelings and wherever he went he carried Detroit in his heart. And the song he wanted her to sing was presumably 'Hello Detroit' which he wrote with Willie Hutch for Sammy Davis Jr. (released on the Gordy label in 1984). Anyway, the attending stars stayed around for an afternoon of 'In Their Own Word' tours, talking about their Motown experiences. Martha Reeves also intended to take part in these tours but she was in Germany at the time of this celebration. And, shame, I was in East Sussex: hell, what I wouldn’t have given to stand on such hallowed ground with those artists who provided a large musical backdrop in my life.

Why was Martha in Germany I hear you say! Well, I can reveal all – good link eh? She was appearing in the world premiere of 'Memories Of Motown' staged at the Estrel Berlin. It’s the brainchild of Berlin producer Bernhard Kurz and featured Martha, The Contours and The Miracles. Special guests on the show were Al Abrams, Motown’s PR director and Mickey Stevenson, head of A&R, composer/producer, and of course, one time husband of Kim Weston. (There’s a new picture of the lady kicking around here somewhere. Thanks to Chris Williams for this, and loads others which he sends me regularly to ensure my photo collection is second to none) Both Al and Mickey told exclusive stories about their time with the company and…well, Dave Randle was there, so can take up the story – “It’s clear a lot of thought and planning went into the show that is part tribute (including a stunning Roz Turner as Diana Ross, and Bobby Brooks Hamilton looking and moving uncannily like Jackie Wilson – he’s Jackie’s 48 year old son!) and part narrative with Al and Mickey, backed by an excellent 9-piece band and support singers led by musical director Glen Raby. Also there were two screens showing original black and white footage that synchronized with the performance on stage.” The musical went on tour on February 1st, but there doesn’t appear to be any concrete plans to bring it to us. Obviously, that’s still being worked on. The 'Memories Of Motown' soundtrack was available on the day of its premiere but will be in the stores on 23 January for the likes of you and me. The track listing is, of course, familiar, but I’ll mention a few –'Shop Around', 'I Second That Emotion', 'The Tears Of A Clown', 'Do You Love Me', 'Dancing In The Street' and 'Stop! In The Name Of Love'. Oh - and Dave Randle also interviewed Martha, Mickey and Sylvester Potts to be shown on YouTube some time in the future. He’s already done one with Louvain Demps which is veeerry interesting.


On January 1st the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum launched its newest exhibition Motown: The Sound Of Young America Turns 50 in the Ahmet M Ertegun Main Exhibit Hall. It features instruments - like James Jamerson’s upright bass and Rick James’ Rickenbacker 4001 bass; clothing - including Stevie Wonder’s glasses and Superbowl 1999 'African American' outfit and Mary Wilson’s “Red Hot” outfit worn on the Ed Sullivan Show when Jean Terrell was introduced as Diana’s replacement, and paperwork like programmes, posters, sheet music, original music scores and contracts - including one dated March 1959 for an artist named Melvin Franklin (not himself from The Temptations) signed by Roquel Billy Davis rather than Berry Gordy. Other items from Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, the Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas among others, will also be included. Now, isn’t this an exhibition that Motown folk would give their right arm to see in London. So, how’s about it ?


Last month I printed all the single releases due this year. By and large the response was ok, but a few remarks concerned the actual use of 45s in this digital age. One reader remarked that Motown fans would have the titles on vinyl anyway, even though they wouldn’t be played because they’re either too precious or a record deck is needed, and would a casual buyer be interested in buying singles anyway? Certianly the singles box sets for the 20th and 45th anniversary are now collectors’ items. Anyway, don’t know if it’s general knowledge or not but with each batch of singles will come a Motown ‘spider’ and a download card which means you’ll be entitled to a free digital download. Also, if you buy all five batches you’ll qualify for a Motown presentation box in which to house the complete collection. Um, don’t know. Help!!! (Editor: Don't ask me Sharon, I'm scratching my head also)... That aside, here’s the cds for January – 'The Definitive Collection' for Diana Ross & The Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Temptations, Mary Wells, Jr Walker & the All Stars, The Four Tops, The Marvelettes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. I believe, this lot was originally released in America last September, so don’t buy twice ok! Also this month are four digital releases – which, I’m told, means you can download on mp3 players. If I’m wrong about this, please let me know, cos I’m still struggling with the thought of playing singles! Anyway, they’re “A Taste Of Honey: Motown Girls”, “Motown Breakbeats”, “Motown Funk” and “Motown Mod”. To round off the month there’s “The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 11A 1971 and “The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 11B 1971 (both box sets) And one dvd re-issue – “The Supremes - Greatest Hits” taped at Concertgebouw, Amsterdam in 1968. The disc contains all the hits plus three bonus tracks from a concert in Carre some years earlier. Check it out on (UK) for £9.99.

In February, there’s Michael Jackson’s 'Hello World', The Marvelettes’ 'Complete Albums Volume 1', Stevie Wonder’s 'Complete Albums Volume 1', The Supremes’ 'Let Yourself Go: Supremes 70s' (3 cd package), Diana Ross’ 'Surrender' (more about this later on) and The Supremes and the Four Tops’ 'Together'. Plus the first batch of five singles. March has 'Hitsville USA Motown Singles', another outing from The Supremes and the Four Tops, The Supremes’ 'Classic Albums Volume 1' and a digital release 'Motown: Northern Soul'. One DVD this time – 'The Temptations: Volume 2', and the second batch of singles.

In April there’s four digital releases, namely, 'Motown Today', 'The Early Years', 'Motown’s One-Offs & Rareties' and 'Motown Covers – Lounge'. Stevie Wonder’s 'Complete Albums Volume 2', The Supremes’ 'Classic Albums Volume 2', Smokey Robinson’s 'Quiet Storm' and an 'Anthology' from The Isley Brothers. To complete the releases is another box set – 'The Complete Motown Singles Volume 12'. The 'Essential' titles are issued during May from a host of artists who have, in the past, perhaps been over looked. So, it gives me pleasure to announce cds from The Velvelettes, Jr Walker, The Detroit Spinners, The Contours, Kim Weston, David Ruffin, and last but by no means least, Edwin Starr. Hopefully other names will be added to this; um, Chris Clark, The Monitors, Tata Vega, Eddie Kendricks, Dennis Edwards, Commodores (and, there’s no Lionel Richie on the year’s list! Oh, come on guys, pleeease!) , The Originals, Bonnie Pointer, High Inergy, Syreeta, Thelma, Jean, Bettye, Billy, Stephanie..well, you get my drift. Actually, I have been told that the information I’m parting with here probably isn’t the definitive list, and of course, the celebrations will hopefully span two years. So, guess there’s plenty of time. The third batch of five singles is also issued this month.

My birthday month of June (Editor: Is that a hint Sharon?) offers a fine pair – the digital release of 'Motown 80s & 90s', and Stevie Wonder’s 'Complete Albums Volume 3'. In July there’s the fourth lot of singles, and 'A Cellarful of Motown: Four' which promises to be another humdinger of a release. Come August we’ve got two Diana Ross releases – 'Lady Sings The Blues' and 'Mahogany', and one from Mr Gaye, namely an expanded edition of his instrumental album 'Trouble Man'. The Marvelettes’ 'Anthology' and 'Hitsville UK' (box set) arrive in September, while the fifth batch of singles have an October release date. I guess all these dates are approximate, but are correct as I type them. It’s rumoured that there’ll be more Diana Ross and with/without the Supremes cds, hopefully including the early albums in their original format, despite some tracks already being included on compilations. There’ll also be another in the series 'Motown Made To Measure' with new guest compilers (me please!) and an opportunity to buy Motown’s tv specials in a series of dvd collections. A multi-part documentary titled 'Inside Motown' and Diana Ross’ 'The Solo Years' have been mentioned. It seems that most people would love to get their hands on 'TCB' and 'GIT On Broadway', both television specials from Diana Ross and the Supremes and The Temptations. It’s not as easy as some projects apparently because Universal needs to get the ok from NBC, Berry Gordy Productions, DePasse Entertainment among others, before anything can be scheduled. My source tells me that negotiations have been going on for some time, but to date no real progress has been made. The same applies to the 'Diana' tv show and 1977’s 'An Evening With Diana Ross'. Meanwhile, bootleg versions are doing the rounds I’ll bet.


From music to film now..ABC are trying their hardest to persuade Diana to make good on a three movie deal as part of her contract with ABC’s theatre division. Her lawyers are apparently arguing that she had an option to make a third film after 'Out Of Darkness' and 'Double Platinum' which brought 14 million viewers to the network. Out of the two, must admit 'Out Of Darkness' is by far the best, a stark, raw and heart wrenching insight into schizophrenia, where Diana very nearly convinced me she was an actual sufferer. Incredible stuff and certainly an Oscar winning performance, no doubt about that! It looks as if the matter could now go to court.


Jean Terrell is once again on record. The only voice in the world that could launch 'Stoned Love' is back again! She’s been sorely missed. Please get in touch for a chinwag Jean because I’d just love to catch up with you again. Until that happens – fingers crossed everyone - she can be found guesting on three tracks on the 'Bobby Martin Presents' cd. He’s an artist, arranger and producer who’s a huge force in the industry thanks to his successful contributions to the Sound of Philadelphia. Jean’s songs are 'You’re A Very Special Part Of My Life', 'I Feel Love Drummin A Beat' and 'Do You Believe In Love At First Sight.' With Jean, are The Friends of Distinction, Little Dooley and Bobby’s new signing Drake Frye. Do check it out, you won’t be disappointed. Meantime, my thanks to Kevin Melville and Steve Weaver for pointing me in the right direction. The other Supreme is Diana and the cd I’ve been banging on about a lot quite recently 'Surrender'. If I’m honest, what drew me to the release was Valerie Simpson’s 'Remember Me' and now I’ve heard it can report it’s smoothly divine, emotional and simply Val. And Diana’s phrasing is totally different as she injected her own personality and feelings into this haunting ballad that carries a punch. So with Valerie also playing piano, the Funk Brothers and Paul Riser’s string section, this album couldn’t really fail could it. Now it’s got another outing with all the pomp and circumstance it deserves, and I for one, am thrilled to bits. 'Surrender' was Diana’s third solo cd which probably contributed to elevating her status to international heights, although this time round 'I’m Still Waiting' was swiped from the 'Everything Is Everything' album (and from the top of our chart of course! Imagination’s Leee John has cut an amazing alternative version of this by the way) and there’s alternate vocals and mixes plus the only unreleased song from the original 'Surrender' sessions named 'Baby I’ll Come.' I won’t list the titles because you’ll know them already but just to mention 'Reach Out I’ll Be There' which many considered to be a poor man’s version of 'Ain’t No Mountain High Enough'. Well, it’s not. Listening again to the way Diana weaves and almost lolls through the melody, steady and relaxed, it complements the Four Tops’ classic very nicely. The fact that this is an expanded edition and that Valerie spoke at length to David Nathan for the notes and about the actual tracks included, is a huge bonus indeed. What has pissed me off though is that I forked out a small fortune to hear this, only to discover it’s been included in the UK schedule this year! Talking of the Four Tops, these guys are to receive a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement on February 7. President of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow, told the media – “Their outstanding accomplishments, legendary passion and artistry have positively affected our culture and will continue to influence and inspire generations to come.” About time too!


We talked about Martha earlier but, hey, there’s more. As an integral pioneer in ensuring Motown’s legacy rolls on for years to come, she’s a leading figure in a $3 million effort to erect 31 life-sized bronzed sculptures of Motown stars like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Diana around the city of Detroit. Called 'The Motown Love Project', Martha’s timing may be off when cash could be spent elsewhere and she’s, naturally, attracted negative responses from Detroiters, but she’s adamant the money would come from private and corporate funding, and fund raising events - and not Detroit City Council. She said – “It’s time to celebrate our rich history and focus what’s great about Detroit.” Mayor Cockrel said – “I don’t think it’s a bad idea so long as city funds aren’t used.” Ronald McDowell meanwhile has started and completed loads of sketches for the commission. He’s known for creating monuments of Coretta Scott King in Marion, her Alabama home, and of The Temptations in the Eddie Kendrick Memorial Park in Birmingham. He plans for the Motown sculptures to be frozen in motion. For example, The Supremes’ raising their hands for 'Stop! In The Nme Of Love', and Stevie Wonder sitting on the steps outside Hitsville USA playing his harmonica.


Well, just one really. Recently advertised is I’ve Never Been To Me by Charlene Oliver, who’s known to us all for her sterling chart topper of the same name. One of several gems she recorded while signed to Motown. However, in the advertising preamble it’s stated that Charlene was the first white woman to be signed to the company. That’s not true of course, so this needs to be amended, but it kinda put me off reading it – if the advertising’s not right, what the book? As it happens, Felix Mensah who is working with me on a book to be published later this year has come up with fifty white acts so far!! And most, if not all, pre-date Charlene. That aside, there’s no publishing date yet for her, but apparently she talks candidly about her life and time at Motown, her battle with depression, and spills secrets about some of the world’s biggest stars. Watch this space. And now cards. Hallmark announced they’ll be joining in the 50th celebrations with a collection of classic love songs …I’ll explain. With Valentine’s Day coming up, Hallmark plan to sell a ten track cd titled 'Heart & Soul' to accompany their Valentine’s Day cards. The songs reflect the slush, although I’m not sure that the Commodores’ 'Brick House' is that appropriate! Although I do remember being told the word means one helluva stacked lady. Others included are The Temptations’ 'My Girl', Marvin and Tammi’s 'Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing', 'My Guy' from Mary Wells and 'Love Machine' by The Miracles. For myself, I’d prefer the red roses and chocolates!

and lastly...

I would like to say thanks to Lilian Kyle for her lovely message. As you know, Lilian was Edwin Starr’s manager and now looks after (among others I might add) The Team, featuring Edwin’s brother Angelo. Their latest cd Keeping The Faith is available now. And to Hazel Eagle – good to hear from you again - and Cliff Reeves, who calls himself an ol’ Northern fan! Your email was very flattering so thank you! And finally, to coincide with Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th president of the USA The Mississippi Kings have released their version of Marvin’s 'What’s Going On', which was originally released 38 years ago to the day. Group spokesman, Nick Cino, said – “We wanted to start the year with something very positive. Barack Obama’s inauguration seemed to be the perfect choice for the release date since we began recording the song on the night of his election. This song represents the anger and sadness over the unjust wars still being fought today, but also the potential for real peace and change in the months and years ahead. - Marvin Gaye left us with an everlasting message of hope”.

Love you
Sharon Davis

Feel free to contact SHARON DAVIS at B&S with any Motown news that you feel would benefit others. Cheers!

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