Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S



Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking column (January)

Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking Column
Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking Column Teena Marie Martha Reeves Xmas wishes.... Al Abrams: Hype & Soul Cindy Birdsong 2006  (Photo Jim Saphin) Syreeta: Set My Love in Motion Smokey Robinson For Dusty... A Tribute CliveRichardson: Really Sayin' Something

When I first planned my debut into this new year, I intended to be full of enthusiasm, flinging joyous accolades across cyber land, extolling the virtues of a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Well, that’s what I intended to do. In reality, life was much different. For starters we were snowed in, then my family and I were cursed with this wretched flu business and finally, of course, before Christmas was out, one of our Motown legends suddenly died. Miss Teena Marie – affectionately known as ‘Lady T’. So, this is where I’m going to start because I want to pay my respects - and also because I have fond memories of working with the lady.


Teena was in London to help us celebrate Motown’s 20th anniversary and to promote her forthcoming album Irons In The Fire due for October release. She was also riding on the UK hits I’m A Sucker For Your Love and Behind The Groove. However, let’s backtrack a while.

I was Motown UK’s publicist at this time and we first heard about Teena Marie in a monthly release schedule which arrived, among the usual deluge of promotional blurb, from the Los Angeles offices. The US pr lady was extremely excited about the company’s new signing – albeit in 1976 – and enthused over the fact she had worked with Rick James, another artist they held in great esteem. An explosive combination we were told. Indeed it was. And almost instantly, we fell under the spell of Teena’s first single I’m A Sucker For Your Love – a young, happy, almost ‘up’ adolescent sound with undertones of soul, but more astonishingly, sung by a white woman! Don’t Look Back and Can It Be Love followed, taken from the Wild And Peaceful album. A more mature Behind The Groove stopped us in our tracks, and as this took off up the UK charts, we put in a request for the singer to visit London to promote this and her future work. She arrived on 6 August to work one of the toughest itineraries drawn up by our office.

As far as I can remember Teena Marie and her manager, Winnie Martin, preferred to stay in a private apartment in Camden and travelled to The Churchill Hotel for interviews. However, on the Monday – 11th – Blues & Soul, and other magazines of that genre dined with us in a south London restaurant. Questions and answers were exchanged over an extremely satisfying and highly expensive meal! The evening started at 9:30pm for chrissakes, and we had a bursting day of interviews on the Tuesday, and more of the same over the next two days, with a couple of photo shoots squeezed in between! I’ll give her credit, never once did she criticise the working schedule, even though, like her, I could have spent longer in bed. Teena went on to speak long and hard with journalists from all publications with a professional and interested ease, none more so than with The Sun newspaper’s Nina Myskow. To be honest, I was a bit wired about this but booked an exclusive table at Mr Kai in Mayfair, and allowed two hours. Such was the success of the lunch, we were still there four hours later. It was great fun – journalist and artist hit it off right away. The evenings were taken up too with nightclub visits, ranging from Gullivers in London’s Mayfair, Dartford’s Flicks, and Lazers in North London. It was a 24/7 job for us all! Who said the music business was fun!! Anyway, in between times, Teena and I could natter; and we did regularly. She was passionate about her work and spoke long about her plans to revolutionise soul music. However, first she had to be accepted as a serious composer/artist, and singing dance music wasn’t the way, she said, but planned to use this vehicle as the stepping stone to her dream. Which, of course, is what she later did. The written classics also interested her, and we spoke about Shakespeare, English authors, this country’s history, and so on. To celebrate this and our successful working relationship, I recall I gave her a battered, much aged copy of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre which I’d been saving for a special occasion, and believed this to be it.

Yes, Teena was prone to moodiness, and sometimes she didn’t invite conversation, but I put this down to her lack of personal time, being hauled from one place to another, meeting people she didn’t know, caught up in the crazy world of disco, which wasn’t her first love. Being on show at all times is something some artists find hard to handle. Yet, irrespective of how she felt, the media and public always saw and spoke to – Teena Marie, the star! And that’s how I remember her. Young, ambitious and full of dreams because her musical journey had just begun.

Berry Gordy also offered his condolences when he wrote he was horrified by the sudden death of his darling Teena – “She was my ‘baby’, always true to herself, always true to her heart. When I first auditioned her she was so awesome, she blew me away. She had so much soul – the only white thing about her was her skin….My heart goes out to her sweet, sweet daughter, Alia Rose, her family, friends and fans. Teena Marie will always be a part of the Motown family. We will all miss her.”

Motown Tracking contributor Felix Mensah, who brought us the recent series of Top Fifties, was also affected by Teena’s sudden passing – “And, like all of us, I’m slowly coming to terms with her death. But I can proudly take comfort in her various recordings, in particular the feel good vibes of Lovergirl. Yes, she is forever gone now, but the Vanilla Soul Queen and her music will never be forgotten. Heaven is increasingly becoming a much soulful haven.”


Mmm…let’s move on…..oh, it’s Motown Monday on Gold and although they don’t play as much music as I’d like, it’s so good to hear those lovely tracks. Nowhere To Run has just been played. That’s put a smile on my face on this dull day in East Sussex. Talking of Martha Reeves, she wasn’t a happy bunny recently was she, when our awful snow storms prevented her and sisters, Lois and Delphine, returning to Detroit from London’s Heathrow. They’d completed dates here including, some at London’s Jazz Café, and wanted to get home for Christmas. Martha told Susan Whitall (The Detroit News’ music writer) – “People were pulling their luggage through the snow, there was panic. They were sleeping on their bags.” They eventually flew home, via Paris, a little later than planned which threw out her date at Bert’s In The Marketplace, in Detroit. “I just want Bert’s management to know…I’ll be driving in from the airport so I may not make it!”


Al Abrams’ much awaited book Hype & Soul will now, I’m told, be launched at the Prestatyn Soul Weekender’s 10th Anniversary in March. An updated visual of the book’s cover is about here somewhere. Will talk more about this when I see it, but it’s a pretty exciting project. There’s another book I’d like to mention here Really Sayin’ Something by Clive Richardson. When soul music made its first impact in London during the sixties, this guy was there. He was an early member of Dave Godin’s Tamla Motown Appreciation Society, and founder of Don Covay’s fan club before editing the pioneering soul music magazine Shout. Still have copies of that kicking around somewhere I think. Anyway, Clive’s book traces the rise and fall of soul music in all its genres, firstly from a fan’s perspective, through to his involvement with Solar Radio as a presenter, and as manager of the soul cd re-issues label, Shout Records. Motown music and artists are included of course, but they’re just the tip of the soul ice berg. Clive also writes fondly about the magazine Blues & Soul - which you may have heard of! Will say more later. I really, really hope this is the first of many books from him.


Next month more names will be added to the For Dusty gala on 5 May at the Royal Albert Hall. At the moment, Smokey Robinson is headlining the tribute to Ms Springfield...It appears that Cliff Richard plans to record a cd duetting with Motown artists. Said the Sir – “David Gest…has come up with the idea of me doing a cd Cliff Richard Sings Soul. We’re now working on the details.” Um, yes…….If Abba don’t come up with the goods for Katherine and William’s wedding, maybe Diana Ross will step in with Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong. Now, that would be cause for tremendous excitement. I always thought I was an Abba fan but just recently discovered I wasn’t after all…. Oh dear, Lamont Dozier owes the IRS over $1.35 million, and another $2.57 million to the state of California…Forgot to say, Cindy Birdsong has finished her autobiography. A publisher?... So sorry to report Marvelette Gladys Horton is very poorly. All our love and best wishes are coming your way …Is there a Kiki Dee cd due? ...funkytowngrooves have released an expanded edition of Syreeta’s Set My Love In Motion. There’s three additional tracks – two Larry Levan mixes of Can’t Shake Your Love and a 12” instrumental promo of Move It, Do It. This was a strange release for Syreeta who, to be fair, was always on the look out for change. This 1981 release was certainly that: extremely refreshing, and portraying an exciting and somewhat adventurous lady. What a tragedy it was when her life was cruelly cut short. Y’know, Syreeta made such an impression on me that I can still recall some of our conversations …. Thank you all so very much for your Christmas cards, e-cards, emails and stuff ; appreciate every word and thought, you know that. So heartfelt hugs all round… email address is of course and have just reduced in inbox contents to make way for new messages…

Ah well, time to go. calls permitting. Greatly looking forward to spending time with you during 2011. So til next time…..

Keep the faith
Sharon Davis

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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