Motown Spotlight, August 2020

Supremes Funny Girl

As you know, during lockdown I embarked on a huge tidy-up of my office, unearthing items I'd forgotten about and re-discovering those I had misplaced.  My photo library still needs urgent attention but did put the drawers of news clippings, magazines and so on in some sort of order. It's quite compulsive I can tell you.  Hidden in the back of a cupboard where I store my box sets, I found "20 Classic 45s To Commemorate 45 Years Of  Motown" with the exclusive badge taped to the top of the box!  In September 2004 it was a limited edition release of two thousand worldwide, and a sealed copy sold recently for £60 plus.  Within the tastefully designed box, forty classic tracks span twenty singles in individual die-cast sleeves, with a free exclusive double-sided gem of Chris Clark and Frank Wilson's "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)". 

Motown 45 Singles

I won't list them all obviously, but here's a few -  The Velvelettes' "Needle In A Haystack"/"He Was Really Sayin' Something";  The Marvelettes' "Please Mr Postman"/"When You're Young And In Love";  The Temptations' "Papa Was A Rolling Stone"/"Cloud Nine" and R Dean Taylor's "There's A Ghost In My House"/"Gotta See Jane", alongside the likes of Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Jimmy Ruffin and The Isley Brothers.  Needless to say, I've returned the box set to the cupboard.  I'll find another one for next month perhaps.

Talking of Motown's 45th anniversary, it reminded me of the outpouring of disappointment from American viewers after watching ABC TV's celebration of the event which was a far cry from the groundbreaking 25th anniversary concert in 1983 which included Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and a moon walking Michael Jackson in its super, unforgettable A-list line-up.  Hosted by Lionel Richie, a mixed bag of celebrities gathered together to honour Motown's 45th birthday, including Thelma Houston, Smokey Robinson, Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland, Macy Gray, Gerald Levert and Jermaine Jackson, among others.   "The magic was gone" wrote Steve Appleford in the Los Angles Times. "…The night lacked any real insight into Motown's lasting influence…..A signal of where the show was going came in the very first moments, as Lionel Richie stepped onstage singing the soft and airy 'All Night Long', one of many massive hits he provided the label in the eighties, but hardly representative of Motown's best. Where was Wonder?  Diana Ross? The Jacksons?" Virginia Heffernan seemed to follow Steve's thinking in The New York Times, when, under the heading "Simply Motown, a nostalgic mixture of amusement and resignation", she wrote "…'Motown 45' is super-smooth, with few surprises.  That's just as well.  Seeing these smiling performers doing their shrugging half-dances is relaxing.  And it provides one more chance to miss Marvin Gaye and all the others…..Televised concerts are often boring, but certain questions lend interest to tonight's affair.  How are The Temptations holding up?  Does Thelma Houston ever get sick of doing 'Don't Leave Me This Way'?"   I didn't see the programme so, for once, I can't comment but the extracts I did see on the internet, didn't really excite me I'm afraid.  

A few weeks ago, Diane Shaw announced she was retiring from the music business.  To say I was shocked and downhearted, was an understatement – and I wasn't alone either judging by the overwhelming response on her FB page from hundreds of fans.  In a statement she said the last couple of years had been unsettling for reasons which were varied and complex. "….the current Coronavirus situation which has effectively closed down the entertainment world, has led to compound my decision….As with a lot of people, it has allowed us the time and space to evaluate our lives, the past and indeed our future opportunities….No matter how and when the entertainment world returns to some sort of normality, unfortunately, for my style of entertainment it's not going to be the same as it was….so for my own personal state of mind, I want to move on to do other things, explore other interests and have a more positive outlook on life. ….I believe I've already had the best of my time in the industry with years of memories of gigs to cherish….I feel extremely blessed to have been able to live my dream for over twenty years, sharing the stage with my childhood soul music heroes…"  

Diane Shaw & Sharon Davis

 

In January 2015, you may remember I had a long chat with Diane, so here's a snippet from that chat when she first recalled working with a trio of Motown divas. “Chris Clark is adorable. I fell in love with her as soon as I met her, and I was in absolute awe of Martha Reeves.  Some of the guys in my band were backing her. She bought over some of her musicians and she took some of mine, but because she had own singers, I wasn’t needed for back up.   Brenda (Holloway) is a sweetheart.  I got personal with her, well, not that kind of personal, but I helped her get dressed.  She’s lovely….I just wish I had her timing. I know I have issues with my vocal delivery and I’m desperately working on it, but Brenda’s is (faultless). Some of the songs she’s done, well, they’re unbelievable…timeless.” 

A little back history here. After appearing on a televised talent show in 1999, Diane spent six years performing a Diana Ross tribute show, then later on joined the "Soul of Motown" travelling tribute show.  Then she decided to pursue a solo career, and hand-picked musicians to accompany her on stage and in the studio.  "We wanted – dare I say this – a UK Funk Brothers, because when we go on stage we wanted people to say 'Wow! those musicians are absolutely brilliant.'  We looked for those who are sympathetic to what we are trying to achieve, so we’ll have a big melting pot of UK musicians who want to recapture that essence that was back in the sixties and seventies.”    Moving on, during July 2015, I met Diane for the first time at Camden's The Jazz Café, after an awesome performance. I was also reunited with my lifelong friend Clive Richardson who, to be honest, first introduced me to Diane's music when I guested on his Solar Radio soul programme.  Releasing two dynamic albums – "Love, Life & Strings" and "Second Chance" – Diane proved (not that she needed to) she was top of her game: gutsy with strong deliveries on the one hand, sweet, soothing soul on the other. Pure magic!  By coincidence, the day I read her musical resignation, I quit Hailsham FM as a presenter due to an ongoing untenable situation.  I recall my final words in the two hour show were something like "It's goodbye from Diane Shaw and it's goodbye from me."  Naturally, I respect her decision but I'm still gutted! 

Paul Stuart Davies

 

Last month I mentioned Paul Stuart Davies in reference to a book being written by a pal of his over in Norway.  Well, since then Mr. Davies has penned his own tome Soul, Motown & Me, his fascinating life as a singer on the Northern Soul circuit, his recording achievements with Motown artists as support vocals, the entwining of his Darwin School of Music with Gloria Jones who created The Marc Bolan School of Music in Sierra Leone, and a helluva lot more.  Erm, he asked 'yours truly' to pen the forward which I was happy to do, as I found his book an extraordinary musical adventure.  It's available only as a free e-book from www.paulstuartdavies.co.uk. Mind you, Paul has just (literally) told me he's thinking of expanding it and producing a printed version next year.  Meantime, he is in the process of completing his album, with plans to have it mastered in Detroit, pressed on vinyl, for possible end 2020/early2021 release.  Titled "Lost Soul" it will include new versions of his singles "Baby, It's Yours" and "Wonderin'".  So watch this space.

You may remember that last month I noted that Aretha Franklin mentioned in Aretha: From These Roots that she was offered "I'm Coming Out" and "Upside Down" before Diana Ross.  Reader Keith Russell contacted me to say Aretha had spoken about this before but it's been debunked several times by the songs' co-writer Nile Rodgers, particularly in his autobiography Le Freak, where he categorically states they were written specifically for Diana.  I haven't read the book – shame on me – but if anyone knows, I'm thinking Mr Rodgers does.  Before leaving the printed word….. I'm so glad Carl Feuerbacher's Supremes' Commerative Booklet has captured your imagination.  The fact that it recently went crazy across the internet only gives credence to Motown fans and their continued loyalty to the artists.  And for that we thank you.

It can't have escaped anyone's notice that a deluxe 2-CD package "Diana Ross and the Supremes 'Sing And Perform 'Funny Girl' – The Ultimate Edition" is due for release on 2 October for around £25 from Real Gone Music/Second Disc Records.  The original 1968 release was never available on CD anywhere in the world, so Andy Skurow, George Solomon, Joe Marchese and Kevin Reeves have pulled out all the stops to ensure the group's fans won't be disappointed. On offer are the original British mono album, that includes an extended version of Diana's "People"; the American stereo album, and The Supreme Mixes, where Cindy Birdsong and Mary Wilson's original voices, not heard in 1968, are reinstated. Alternate versions of "His Love Makes Me Beautiful", "Cornet Man" and "Sadie, Sadie", live performances of "My Man" from the Frontier Hotel, Las Vegas show on 13 January 1970 and "I'm The Greatest Star" an outtake from TCB, are also included. Accompanying the music is a full colour 32-page booklet, with an introduction by Mary Wilson and many exclusive colour visuals. 

Detroit A GoGo

 

And finally this month - a sad note: Phil Dick, organiser of Detroit A Go-Go scheduled for 23 – 25 October at Leeds University, has confirmed the event has been postponed due to the pandemic situation.  "We feared this was coming but hoped it would be just far enough out there to be OK," he wrote.  "However, this has proved not to be the case.  We will have details soon of the re-arranged event, but thought it was better to let folks know that this was happening (or rather not happening) sooner than later. More details to follow." Three weeks ago I had a phone call from Chris Clark saying that her flight had been cancelled, so had a fair idea all wasn't well.  All tickets purchased will be honoured for a future event, and as some of the hotel bookings are non-refundable, Phil posted on the FB page that he will be "organising an event during the weekend for those who have non-cancellation hotel rooms and anyone else who wants to come along."  It was to be expected but dreadfully sad all the same.  Phil has worked tirelessly put the event into place, and for this he gets my grateful thanks. However, with public and artist safety paramount at all times, and with America still being in the red zone, he regrettably had little choice.  Updates as and when, but do visit the Detroit A Go-Go website and FB page. Among the artists booked were Chris Clark, Carolyn Crawford, Pat Lewis, Ronnie McNeir, Spyder Turner and J.J. Barnes.   I can only re-echo Diane Shaw's words above that the entertainment business has been annihilated this year with little sign (at time of writing) of the position changing before Spring 2021.  So, whether we like it or not, we'll just have to be patient.

And finally, finally!  I hardly believed my ears last night when I heard Marvin and Tammi's "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" blaring from my television to advertise some wooden furniture.  Then came a version of "Get Ready" advertising school clothes.  While I appreciate money needs to be generated by Universal and/or EMI Publishing, these are diamond songs for goodness sake!  I wish there was somebody in control there like Paul McCartney who some years ago put his foot down about Beatles' songs being used for advertising purposes.  Mmm…I wonder if that still holds today?

I promise that really is it, so thank you for joining me again this month. I'm now going to search out and play some tracks from a box set for next time, just in case I forget later on which happens far too regularly these days!

 

Sharon Davis

Read More

Katja Ogrin/Redferns
This week on My Classic Soul Podcast, SoulMusic.com founder David Nathan interviews the original Funky Divas - En Vogue! Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron and Rhona Bennett discuss their entire careers and their plans to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their debut album Born To Sing.
article column overlay
Echoes/Redferns
"Our family is devastated," shared Bonnie Pointer's sister, Anita.
article column overlay
S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

Lionel Richie had just flown the Commodore coop when he got the call to perform the biggest solo gig of his life. 

article column overlay

Facebook Comments