The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Motown’s 50th Anniversary

2-12-09 Motown’s 50th Anniversary

I understand that Motown Records is having their 50th anniversary this year. The February 2009 issue of Mojo Magazine from England has a great Motown article, “Motown – The 100 Greatest Tracks”. Of course a British magazine has the only decent article I’ve seen so far, about Motown’s 50th! In England, the Motown empire is known as “Tamla-Motown”. When I lived in England, I heard so much Motown music!

For me, Motown: we’re talking a core of only a few artists: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Martin Gaye, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Jr. Walker & The All Stars, The Four Tops et al. I do like some of the lesser lights, too: The Marvelettes, The Originals (“Baby I’m For Real”) etc. I just love Jr. Walker & The All Stars!

I’m a big fan of the “Anthology” 2CD sets that came out in the late 80’s. I’ve got a couple of them, and it would seem that these collections really hit the mark. More recently, I’ve been trying to find many of the Universal / Motown “20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection” CD’s (I just got The Marvelettes!). I remember when the LP edition of this set was coming out, the Stevie Wonder one was highly anticipated, but…it was disappointing, as it contained none of his 70’s hits. Let’s hope that there are at least 2 volumes of Stevie Wonder in the “20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection” series!

I never bought any Motown LP’s when I was young; only a couple of 45’s. I think my then-all-time-favorite Motown song was “Ball Of Confusion” by The Temptations. And I vividly remember “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” by The Four Tops on the AM radio. And, of course, “The Happening” by Diana Ross & The Supremes.

My GF is a big Jackson 5 fan, but I am likely just a tad too old for them – though I do own an “Ultimate Collection” by them. I had & heard the 70’s Stevie Wonder albums at the time, but it really wasn’t my scene. I do not remember when, but I learned to look for Stevie Wonder 45’s – ostensibly to get the short (single) versions on songs such as “Living For The City”.

In the video age (the 80’s) I remember Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me”, and several Rick James videos, too. But my Motown era is really ’62 – ’70.

And of course The Beatles covered three Motown songs on their 2nd album.

Are we going to get a PBS special on Motown’s 50th? Or will it be on some cable channel, and I’ll have to rent a DVD of it to see if they have any righteous 60’s footage that I haven’t already seen? Guess I’ll have to wait until September to find out.

Let’s not forget Berry Gordy’s foray into rock music: Rare Earth Records! In addition to the group Rare Earth, they also released The Pretty Things “S.F. Sorrow” in the USA! What?


Anonymous Jim Donato said...

I like the Psychedelic Soul sound best of Motown. It was a vital hybrid they achieved. "Ball Of Confusion" "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone." "Smiling Faces Sometimes." These tracks and especially Edwin Starr's "War" are my absolute fave rave Motown tracks. The pop stuff was fine but these records last and last and last. What a great mix of soul and social commentary. Hats of to Normal Whitfield for his pushing of the boundaries!

5:18 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

Cloud Nine, Jim-san! Super hot mastering on M-town favs in the "Millennium Collection - 20th Century Masters" series. It's the Undisputed Truth!

6:47 AM  
Blogger chas_m said...

The best documentary I've seen on the whole Motown thing is "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," which is all about the house band (the Funk Brothers) rather than the label per se.

Sure, they fill time by having some of the young kids of today sing some Motown tunes (Joan Osbourne's the only one of em I don't want to strangle), but the stories from the band are pure unvarnished gold.

I imagine it's out on DVD by now.

6:54 AM  

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