Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Sharon Davis Motown Tracking Twelve

ULTIMATE MOTOWN: HAMMERSMITH APOLLO 13/11/09 Susaye Greene Berry Gordy Motown Around The World: The Classic Singles Thelma Houston Diana Ross Stevie Wonder Cindy Birdsong Miracles: City Of Angels Keith Russell (Diana Ross/Supremes Historian) Deborah Subbs Leon Huff Diana Ross: Touch Me In The Morning Hope For HaIti... Please give...

Well, as things seem to be getting back to normal, life is taking on a more even keel. However, thereâs still problems with my email, so for the time being Iâve opened a go-between one So, weâre back in business. It occurred to me that I couldnât pass any of your comments on to Chris Pleydell because youâd got nowhere to send them. Believe it or not, it was my hand that was out of action, not my brain! Chris is the guy behind the Divas Of Motown shows and he wants to present a proper UK tour but before he can he needs your help. The full story is in MT11[, so pop by if you missed it first time around.

About fifteen minutes ago I was having a lovely girlie chinwag with Susaye Greene. We burned up the international phone line quite a bit. She really is a fun lady and soon Iâll be bringing the interview to you whichâll cover her time with The Supremes, working with Michael Jackson and lots more.


Now thereâs a couple of cds I need to mention before I forget. First Motown Around The World â The Classic Singles. As the title suggests, here weâve got a 38 track, 2 cd package from Hip-oSelect which, many tell me, causes all sorts of problems. Anyway, during the sixties, many of the companyâs top acts recorded foreign language singles in German, Italian and Spanish (in fact, Stevie Wonder alone has recorded eleven songs in Spanish and Italian). The story goes that the artists learned the song lyrics phonetically from special instructors flown to Detroit/Los Angeles from their native countries. More often than not, the acts learned enough to get them through a song but not a conversation. Iâm certainly not knocking this because itâs another aspect of Berry Gordyâs business acumen to get his music to the people, but do we really need it? Tracks include the Four Tops with Piangono Gli Uomini (I Canât Help Myself), Jimmy Ruffinâs Se Decidi Cosi (What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted), Stevie Wonder Non Sono Un Angelo (Iâm Wondering) and so on. Iâll be here forever, typing out these tracks and messing up my spell check into the bargain! Want to mention this though, thereâs four recordings in French by The Velvelettes which were unearthed for their Anthology in 2004, and Spanish versions of two later singles - Smokey Robinsonâs Being With You and Jermaine Jacksonâs Letâs Get Serious which is an extended track. Presented with a 24-page booklet designed to look like an international passport, the package includes rare photos of the artists around the world, reproductions of the original single sleeves, a sticker sheet, loads of annotations and notes by Dr. Andrew Flory. Donât know that I need it.

The second cd is a re-issue of The Miracles City Of Angels which was originally released over here in November 1975, the same month as Yvonne Fairâs The Bitch Is Black, The Undisputed Truthâs Higher Than High and the Commodoresâ Movinâ On. With Smokey Robinsonâs replacement, Billy Griffin on lead, this was an exciting, and somewhat innovate, slice of Miracle music. The album was thematic because it told the story of two souls/people in their search for fame, fortune and love in Hollywood. It was also a smidge controversial. I donât remember this but the promotional blurb from Hip-o Select states the British version of the album didnât reproduce the US cover or include the full story about the music. So, here we have the US release, with the original artwork, together with an unreleased bonus item of an extended 12â instrumental version of the groupâs international hit Love Machine. Billy Griffin and Pete Moore acted as project consultants, while David Nathan penned the sleeve notes. A long-overdue re-issue methinks.


Youâll see around here somewhere a signed photo from ex-Supreme Cindy Birdsong. Many thanks for thinking of us and one of these days Iâd love to talk! My thanks to Jim Saphin as well. And this reminds me. I donât know how I could have been so rude â but Iâve never congratulated Diana Ross on becoming a grandmother. So here âtis â many, many congratulations Miss Ross!! Her eldest daughter Rhonda Ross Kendrick, whose dad is Berry Gordy, and who is married to jazz pianist Rodney, gave birth to Dianaâs first grandchild last August. Yes, I know. How could I have left it this long!! Anyway, his nameâs Raif-Henok Emmanuel Kendrick and Rhonda said âMy mom is thrilled beyond belief!â She told US journalist Timothy Hodge ââ..My mother is a very, very hands-on mother. From my birth, it didnât matter what performances she had at night, she was always up for breakfast in the morning, she got us ready for school, she was there if we were sick.â And that continued, she said, with her brothers Evan Ross and Ross Arne Naess. Diana, by the way, was with her daughter most times throughout her pregnancy, staying on the East Coast. âAnd because I have that relationship with her, Iâm doing my best to emulate that relationship with my son.â Rhonda further said that Diana did all the âfirstsâ with her like â first nappy change, bath and feeds. âCan you imagine having the legendary Diana Ross as your grandmother?!â Seems to me Raif will have a grand life! ( Meantime, two dates have been announced for her â 16 May at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods, Mashantucket, Connecticut, and 18 May at the Count Basie theatre, Red Bank, New Jersey

Staying with Diana, hereâs something completely different. Donât know whether you know or not, but sheâs been trying to sell her waterfront Greenwich, Connecticut home for the last three years. The asking price is said to be in the region of $39.5 million and for that you get 5 acres, a 12,562 square foot mansion containing 11 bedrooms, six bathrooms, a hot tub, five fireplaces (!), pool, tennis court, central air conditioning and two apartments over the garage. The only reason this has hit the news is because itâs been reported that Diana requested the town council to reduce the tax assessment on the unsold property. The US newspaper noted that she appealed in 2004 and got a substantial reduction on her $168,000 annual property tax bill. Anyway, Dianaâs solicitors Ivey, Barnum & OâMara are taking care of business because she feels the town has exaggerated the number of improvements sheâd made to the property. This year her tax bill stands at around the $90,000 mark apparently. This year thereâs something like two hundred appellants requesting reductions in their property tax. (


From Supreme to Wonder! Well, it does look as if Stevie will headline the last night of Glastonbury which runs from 23 â 27 June 2010. As I write this, the organisers were still waiting for the absolute confirmation from Stevieâs management, but if he gives the green light, he will close the festival on the Sunday night. U2 will headline the Friday fun, while Muse will close Saturday nightâs show. (I think Iâve got that round the right way!) This year marks the 40th birthday of Glastonbury, and the site in Somerset will be enlarged to cater for the bigger tents now favoured by the attending audience. And staying with our main man a little longer, heâs been named as a United Nationsâ Messenger Of Peace. There are ten so far, including George Clooney and Michael Douglas, and the idea is that they use their celebrity status to spread the word about the great things the United Nations is doing to improve peopleâs lives everywhere. When the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon publicly announced the appointment, he said â âI recognise that Mr Wonder has consistently used his voice and special relationship with the public to create a better and more inclusive world, to defend civil and human rights and to improve the lives of those less fortunate. Stevie Wonder is a true inspiration to young people all over the world about what can be achieved despite any physical limitations.â Being given this role just means Stevie will carry on what heâs been doing for years â using his music to encourage civil and human rights for people. He proved his effectiveness when he spearheaded a campaign in 1983 campaign to persuade the US government to declare a public holiday for the birthday of Martin Luther King who was assassinated in 1968. It was a long slog, but he won, and, together with the American people, enjoyed the January public holiday for the first time in 1986.


What else? Oh, yes. Thelma Houston contacted me to say that following her London trip last year, sheâs now performing in San Franciso in the Teatro ZinZanni presentation Hearts On Fire. Sheâs Madame Zinzanni. By all accounts the show blends interactive theatre, circus style performances, musical numbers and a gourmet five-course dinner in San Franâs Embarcadero. Thelma said âIf someone like Joan Baez can do this show, then so can I!â


Keith Russell and Deborah Stubbs

And now, to our rolling section âWhat Motownâs 50th Anniversary Means To Meâ. Am so excited because first out is Keith Russell, a Diana Ross/Supremes historian, followed by Deborah, daughter of Four Topsâ Levi Stubbs. I kid you not!

âMotown reaching 50 has been a great time to celebrate and look back on what has been the soundtrack of my life. Berry Gordy created something so special; it is not just part of America's heritage - it became global. The recent special releases through Hip o-select have been like missing pieces from your favourite jig-saw...finally found....and the return of Motown Tracking! Last yearâs concerts, whether Divas in the autumn, Diana's Special in Holland, or those earlier in the year, gave fans a chance to reconnect with old friends as well as celebrate the anniversary and the music. All we need now are dvds of Motown tv specials - then itâs perfect! Keith

When I think of Motownâs 50th anniversary, I think of a strong family unit. One of the things I remember most while growing up around the other Motown artists was unity. The artists, musicians, and all our families had such a strong bond that you didnât look at these people as stars. They were our aunts, uncles, and their children were like our cousins. There was never a dull moment, just a lot of fun every time we all got together! I must say, however, the thing that I am most passionate about when it comes to Motownâs 50th anniversary, is how proud I am to be the daughter of Mr. Levi Stubbs. Not just because he will always be remembered as âthe lead singer of the Four Topsâ¦but because of the great man he was. He was a family man as well as a performer. During the 50 year time span of Motownâs history, my dad, along with the three other original members of the Four Tops, (Renaldo âObieâ Benson, Lawrence Payton, and Abdul âDukeâ Fakir) received the [BLifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys. Again, this took me back to those family times because there were so many of my dadâs peers at the event to help us share in the moment, and what a moment it was! Motown meant family 50 years ago and it still means family to this day, specifically, as was reflected in the 50th anniversary celebration in Detroit last November at the Westin Hotel. The room was filled with great memories as well as some sombre moments. All in all, it was a wonderful reflection of what the past 50 years have meant to a lot of people. Not just in that room but all over the world.


Finally, a handful of MT notes as Iâm very nearly out of space here. Stephanie Farr reported in the Philadelphia Daily News that a recent fire at Philadelphia International Records studio was âsuspiciousâ. Thankfully nobody was injured and the studio was almost unscathed. Leon Huff told the newspaper that once when Stevie Wonder was recording in the studio, he said to Leon â âSomebody else is in this building besides us.â Leon knew what he meant. And he felt the same when he heard the studio had escaped serious fire damage, saying â âThe Almighty wrapped his arms around that studio.â â¦.. A private music benefit for Haiti staged at the Jewish University, Los Angeles, California raised over $200,000 for the country, whose capital Port-au-Prince was devastated by a gi-normous earthquake on 12 January last. Taking part in the gala were Freda and Scherrie Payne, Susaye Greene, Deniece Williams, Lynda Laurence, among othersâ¦.Smokey Robinson joined an elite array of stars to perform in A Celebration Of Music From The Civil Rights Movement staged at the White House. President Obama and his first lady Michelle organised the âdoâ in celebration of Black History month (February) and alongside Smokey were Natalie Cole, Jennifer Hudson, Yolanda Adams, Bob Dylan, the Blind Boys of Alabama, with others. The wonderful Morgan Freeman was a guest speaker. So, thatâs what the Presidentâs been doing these past months â organising a concert â which, I hasten to add, he appears to do very well indeedâ¦Havenât yet received Dianaâs Touch Me In The Morning cd so my article has been put back until next timeâ¦this will be the year for Supremes fans too â¦and what do you think of the re-vamped We Are The World? And the video? There were about 81 contributors like Gladys Knight, Nicole Richie, Jamie Foxx, Barbra Streisand, India.Arie and Tony Bennett. Janet Jackson sang over Michaelâs original contribution. Well, in my humble opinion, I thought it all was fabulous! Iâm sure Mr Editor can link us into the video..can you, can you?? We Are The World 25 for Haiti Video
And that really is it! Enjoy your month and keep the faith til next time..

Love you
Sharon Davis

Thelma Houston and Motown Divas @Hammersmith Apollo pictures by kind permission of Ivan Constable - Thank you Ivan.

Please feel free to contact Sharon at the new email address of with any Motown news that you feel would benefit others - Thank you.

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