Standing in the Shadows of Motown was a documentary about The Funk Brothers (Motown’s studio band) it also describes Detroit and Soul Music in general. Detroit is the home or at least the recording base of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, Jackie Wilson, The Temptations, The Supremes, Jr Walker and the All Stars and many more ground breaking artists. Aretha Franklin member of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and the most popular female artist in all music. Her father was the pastor of Detroit’s largest black congregation New Bethel Baptist Church. It was a perfect storm that put the child prodigy in front of a supportive audience. She became the “Queen of Soul” has won 18 Grammys, 20 number 1 hits and is a national treasure. No artist may encapsulate the “Soul” sound as well as Aretha Franklin. She recorded the highest selling gospel album Amazing Grace proving dedication to her and Soul’s roots.
Stevie Wonder was another child prodigy with a hit album by the age of thirteen. Blind since shortly after birth Stevie’s insights into the deep human condition and passion for music is unparalleled. His early work helped make Motown a household name and his 70’s work helped pioneer the keyboard. His Seventies albums “Innervisions”, “Talking Book”, and “Music of My Mind” are considered masterworks. Marvin Gaye wrote, played and was a label mate with Stevie throughout their careers. They along with Smokey Robinson formed a nucleus of geniuses at Motown. Marvin’s early work with Tammi Terrel became some of the labels most beloved work and his late work “I Want You” and “What’s Going On” were groundbreaking in studio techniques and remain influential to musicians of all genres. Smokey Robinson was number 2 to Barry Gordy in the Motown corporation. With more than 4000 songs to his credit Smokey Robinson’s sweet and poetic compositions laid the foundation of modern Soul. Smokey knew Diana Ross since she was eight and would write for her and her Supremes as well as The Temptations, his solo work and with his group The Miracles. Robinson Composed work for a family of child prodigies the Jackson 5. Born in Gary Indiana but raised in Motown the group would produce music’s all time top selling artist Michael Jackson.
While Detroit is much more than Motown, it’s importance in not just Soul music but modern culture as well cannot be understated. Making pop stars world wide Motown brought the planet Soul. They took the gospel music brewing in their hometown and truly became “The Sound of Young America”. Detroit’s Soul music set the high water mark for Soul excellence and the scene bred musicians whose profound talent would make them some of America’s most respected. “What you want, baby I got it…”
New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, New York, the Bay Area, Miami, Detroit and Philadelphia all had their own style and stamp on the formation of Soul. The Sound-Clash explores the cities that created Soul music, Friday nights at 10.