Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking column (March)

Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking Column
Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking Column The Supremes: Cindy Birdsong, Mary Wilson, Scherrie Payne Scherrie Payne Susaye Green The Miracles: Shop Around Temptations Supremes & Temptations Diana Ross Susaye Green & Andrew Skurnow (copyright@s.greene) The Originals: California Sunset Dennis Edwards: Don't Look Any Further Smokey Robinson The Motown Sound: In Performance At The White House R&B Chart Makers: Various (stateside)



It’s on a happy note that I step into this hallowed column, because first out this time, exclusive and exciting news about a forthcoming project which is titled The Supremes - Let Yourself Go: The 70's Albums Vol.2 - The Final Sessions - Released May 17th.

Much has been speculated about this release for some time now, with Supremes’ fans becoming very animated about what treasures the set will hold. I think it’s also fair to say that the track listing has been hinted at and that a release date has been changed since word first escaped some months ago. A significant release like this, has, of course, prompted rumours of a possible reunion concert. Hey, ho, who knows – because I don’t, yet I’m the kinda gal who rules nothing out in this crazy world of music.


Anyway, with all this this in mind, Susaye Greene and I managed a quick chat, when she told me – “This project is turning out to be one of the best designed packages I've seen in a long time, in my opinion.  A lot of the Supremes’ fans have been waiting for this one for ages. It's been (generally) known that it’s in the works, and there is a lot of curiosity about it. I can't give away much, ‘cos that would spoil the fun, but I can say this…I'm extremely excited to find out there's a version of me singing the lead on I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking.   I've been very involved in the project - we all have - from interviews for the booklet, with a great deal of input about the many fantastic and amazingly rare and never before seen photos. It is so beautiful. People are going to be just delighted with this package - from the graphics, to the text and especially the music. All involved just did themselves proud. I just can't wait!  They won't let us mention a release date, but I promise it is well worth the wait!” Thanks very much lady.


I then tracked down Scherrie Payne, who said she was blown away by the photos she’d never seen before, bringing back warm memories of the greatest moments of her life. “Sometimes I forget that I was part of a group that was internationally acclaimed …only nine ladies can make that claim – Diana, Mary, Florence, Barbara, Cindy, Jean. Lynda, Susaye and me….long after I’m gone, my daughter Shoshana, and my grandson Shaun, will be able to reflect back on that magical era of Motown and be proud. Yes, I was there!” If you want to see the full transcript of this, do swing by I do also believe, these ladies are cutting their own cd – more next month I hope.


Let’s move on to another Supreme – Diana. And her much-talked about appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s US chat show on 25 February, where she was relaxed, clearly at home, lounging on the couch talking to Oprah. Diana’s children too were natural and very much down to earth – not the slightest bit showbizzi and, this is, I have to say, down to their mother’s insistence that they be raised as ‘everyday’ children. An absolute credit to her when, at times, it couldn’t have been easy. Here’s a few snippets from the show - Oprah said she had watched The Supremes on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, and to a certain extent Diana had shaped her future life. She was ten years old and on welfare, when Diana said on the show that anything was possible. “I have to really keep myself from going into the ugly cry”, the chat show host said during her opening sequence. “Because of how much this legend, this woman means to me and my life.” During their high profile chinwag, Diana spoke about being a mother, put the record straight about the Miss Ross fiasco, about being Arnie’s wife, and when asked about the aging process, she replied she wanted to grow old gracefully – “I like my lines!” She had, however, stayed in touch with her youth by attending computing lessons at an Apple store. “…I’ve embraced the computer. I know how to do the computer stuff. I can’t get to be an old person and not know how to (use) a computer.” Then when Oprah asked her would she stop performing, Diana said “Maybe”. Then added – “I think that if my voice changes – because your voice does change – then it’s time for me not to sing. I don’t want to be singing and sounding bad.”

Um, what else. Oh yes, Diana and her family also filmed a special video for Oprah which showed the singer wearing her dressing gown and hair pins, and the children dancing to their mum’s “I Love You (That’s All That Really Matters)” . And finally in this little teaser, Diana was reunited with Billy Dee Williams who, as you know, was her co-star in the films Lady Sings The Blues and Mahogany. When asked what he remembered most about working with Diana, he replied – “her mouth”. Then Diana had her say – “Every time he would go to kiss me, Berry Gordy would drag me away and say ‘that’s enough’.” Hah! Spoil sport Mr G – nothing wrong with a funky kiss. Anyhows, my heartfelt thanks here to Keith Russell for his regular reports, Oprah’s own website, and the Oh – use this link for the full show youtube


Let’s move on. Gordon Frewin, one of Motown’s most distinguished and knowledgeable product managers (I worked with him during the early eighties) contacted me to say did I realise it’s fifty – yes fifty - years ago this month (February) that The Miracles’ Shop Around single was British released. He sent me a scan of the group’s Shop Around EP, released in October 1961 at the tail end of London-America’s licensing period. Gordon continued - “On the back of the EP is written my name and the date I bought it – January 1967 – and I can even remember where. A record stall in London’s Islington street market. As I write this, I’m thinking I can still hear Standing In The Shadows Of Love blaring out over the stall’s speakers. How time flies!” Apart from having the greatest respect for this guy and his knowledge, and my joy in working with him, he compiled the full UK and US discography in my Motown:The History book which still holds its own to this day. Actually, Gordon reminiscing about this EP has brought flashbacks of me travelling by train from Uckfield in East Sussex to buy the import album Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations” from Dave Godin’s Soul City store in London’s West End. That must have been in 1968 – hell’s bells that ages me! However, it was a must have purchase! And I still have the album…..


I also wanted to mention Damon Harris because it was recently reported that his cancer has bitten back, but this time in his spine. The ex-Temptation had previously won his battle against prostrate cancer, and went on to open the Damon Harris Cancer Foundation dedicated to the prevention and treatment of prostrate cancer . As you know, Damon replaced Eddie Kendricks in the group, working with Otis Williams, Richard Street, Dennis Edwards and Meliyn Franklin. His first album with them was, I think, Solid Rock in 1972, and the first single Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are). He said Paradise was the first song he performed in public, and he was constantly reminded how much he sounded like Eddie. It was an easy transition for the ex-Young Tempts group member, and he soon became a favourite Temptation with fans. He left the group in 1975 – well, he was sacked then - due to artistic differences between him and the group membership. He went on to form Impact, before embarking upon a solo career, and later retiring from the business. Our warm wishes and positive vibes are on their way to you Mr Harris from all the B&S gang. Much love and big hugs too for a speedy recovery.


Right – here’s some interesting titles being released by Big Break Records in the near future. First up is The Originals’ California Sunset. Known best perhaps for their evergreen Baby I’m For Real penned by Marvin Gaye and his wife Anna, The Originals were session singers for Marvin, Stevie Wonder. Jimmy Ruffin, among others. Marvin once said - “I was getting tired of all the pressures, tired of all the fights I was getting to have with Motown’s administration, and tired of being in the hands of other producers. (He had just released the dull That’s The Way Love Is in August 1969, by the way) I started telling them I wanted to produce myself. I’d never actually tried to learn production but I’d seen so many producers at work in the studios twiddling knobs that I just picked it up. When I produced The Originals and got a number one hit that really showed Motown that it was absurd putting me with a producer.” In retrospect, it does seem ironic that this emotional track with tender lyrics was born from a couple who were constantly at loggerheads. The group’s follow-up was another of their songs The Bells. As usual, I digress. California Sunset was originally scheduled on the Soul label in 1974, before being released on the Motown subsidiary in February 1975. With tracks like Sweet Rhapsody, Let Me Live In Your Life and It Could Never Happen, this first ever cd reissue is naturally, rather special. As is this second Motown cd also due from BBR – Don’t Look Any Further from the mighty ex-Temptation Dennis Edwards, first released in 1984. This was such a landmark recording for Dennis, containing as it does, deep soul slices of pure grit and grind. The title track where he shares vocals with Siedah Garrett – also known, of course, for her duet with MJ on I Just Can’t Stop Loving You and co-writer of his Man In The Mirror – is considered a soul masterpiece these days. Two very welcome releases. Likewise Ashford & Simpson’s Street Opera, their first for Capitol Records in 1982 following their stay with Warner Brothers. Simply adored the album back in the day. And, Edwin Starr’s Clean, his 1978 release and second for 20th Century Records. It became his most successful album since his Motown tenure. More when I get it. Finally…

Little Trackings..

The Motown Sound: In Performance At The White House, a concert celebrating Black History Month and the legacy of Motown Records, is be broadcast on 1 March. The programme,dedicated to the company’s impact on all music and its popularity in US culture, features only one Motown artist – Smokey Robinson (at time of me typing this). His support acts include, Seal, Sheryl Crow, and John Legend. Um, there’s more Motown acts working who can also knock up a good show Mr President, so why not use their authentic talents? Ain’t nothing like the real thing, honey …..recently saw Chris Farlowe and his Blues & Soul Band (yep, tis true) at Hailsham’s funky Pavilion. Great show - full of good material ……Ex-Motowner, Noreen Allen contacted me with some really sad news. Peter Prince – ex-head of Motown International and Jobete based in London, died in Florida sometime in January. Noreen told me he’d been very frail following extensive cancer treatments, then he fell and broke his hip. A memorial service is planned in London. He was one of the most respected business men I’ve ever met, such a gentleman, was a pure delight to work with, and was responsible for launching several Motown careers when others had given up. Needless to say, all the acts loved him and his huge welcome when they visited London … if you need reminding - my email is…..A new Northern Soul documentary Keep On Burnin’ is due for release in April. The ninety minute film traces the story of Northrn Soul from the early days at London’s Scene Club through to its heyday in Wigan Casino. Apparently, there’s loads of vintage footage to see including Billy Preston performing Edwin Starr’s Agent Double O Soul. Also interviews with folk like Neil Rushton and Ady Croasdell…..Is it true? In the seventies, a UK dress designer called herself Pamla Motown?.......Mentioning that Miracles EP has reminded me of the R&B Chart-makers issued on Stateside in January 1964. In fact, it was the first EP to be issued on the label, and was the first in a series of four. Tracks were – Marvin’s Hitch Hike, Martha and the Vandellas’ Heatwave, The Miracles’ A Love She Can Count On and The Marvelettes’ My Daddy Knows Best. If you’ve got my copy please can I have it back …….let me squash an ongoing rumour still simmering away on the back burner, as far as I’m concerned Dusty Springfield never recorded any duets with Marvin Gaye. But I’m open for contradiction……Reel Music have announced an April release on Carolyn Crawford, with further titles from Blinky, Thelma Houston and Ivy Jo Hunter mid-year… my secretary has now returned from her travels, this column has been finished and delivered on time. Hah, a pity her personal time keeping is so shoddy, but that’s a work in progress ….

Til next time, keep the faith….


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