motown

Iggy and The Stooges performing in a concert in London, England
User: Aurelien Guichard / Flickr

​It's no secret that Michigan has turned out some powerful figures in the world of pop music. Musicians and artists whose influence rocketed out of Michigan and spread around the world.

A great example of this is in the United Kingdom. Many artists there were influenced by the R&B and Motown music: The Beatles, the Stones, the Who, and so many more.

Chris Hawkins is a music journalist and host on BBC6 music. He says Michigan artists and their music have had big impact in the UK.

"There's something joyous about the sound of Motown. The lyrics often a little more complicated ... It was like nothing we've ever experienced here before ... It made artists huge starts, and we adopted those stars here in many ways," says Hawkins.

Moving through the decades from the Motown glory days, Hawkins says artists and songs from Michigan have sparked unique responses in the UK and drew enthusiastic fans.

"Madonna's Vogue ... I remember the little bar I used to go to in the small town where I grew up, everyone was voguing," says Hawkins.

* Listen to our conversation with Chris Hawkins above.

blackenterprise.com

DETROIT (AP) - A family spokeswoman says Don Davis, a longtime Detroit musician, composer and recording executive, has died at 75.

Lisa Wilmore said Davis died Thursday in Michigan after a brief illness. She declined to say where he died.

Davis was a session musician during the 1960s at Motown Records in Detroit. He then went to work for Memphis, Tennessee-based Stax Records. He also started the independent Groovesville label.

He was a co-writer and co-producer of "Who's Making Love," a 1968 Stax hit for Johnnie Taylor.

Esther Gordy Edwards started the Motown Museum in 1985. After a recent visit, Sir Paul McCartney "adopted" one of Hitsville's historic pianos and had it restored by Steinway.
user dig downtown detroit / Flickr

From Motown to Madonna, techno to gospel, jazz and blues, from Eminem to Kid Rock to Aretha, and much more, the Detroit area has been, and continues to be, a music powerhouse.

In fact, at least 38 Grammy Award winners and nominees from the past five years have a Detroit connection.

A recent study from the Anderson Economic Group takes a deep dive into the business of the Detroit-area music scene.

Alex Rosaen, the principal author of the study for the Anderson Economic Group, joined us today.

If there's one song that captures the feel of Motown, Detroit, and America in the 1960s, it's Martha Reeves singing "Dancing in the Streets." On today's show we talked about the historical importance of this Motown classic.

And, we explored the concept behind community cafes, how they work and where you can find one near you.

Also, Ontario Power Generation is proposing to build a nuclear waste dump site on the shore of Lake Huron. How will this affect the drinking water?

First on the show, this promises to be an important week for the State Senate. This could be the week the Senate decides whether or not to expand Medicaid to more low-income adults in Michigan.

You may recall, the Senate broke off for its summer break in June without taking a vote on Medicaid, something that so incensed Governor Snyder that he came home early from a trade trip to Israel in order to publicly scold the Senate.

So, two months later, it appears a vote is at hand.

Rick Pluta, the Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, joined us today.

Wikipedia

“Dancing in the Street,” written by Mickey Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter and Marvin Gaye, and recorded in two takes, less than 10 minutes, by Martha Reeves. For many, that song is Motown.

Little did they know after slapping down Martha’s vocals in that studio in Hitsville on West Grand Boulevard, they had created a song that would come to represent a watershed moment in history--Motown’s history, Detroit’s history, and America’s history.

Writer Mark Kurlansky talks about the story of how this hit Motown song became the rallying point for these important moments in history in his newest book, “Ready For A Brand New Beat: How ‘Dancing in the Street’ Became the Anthem for a Changing America.”

rhizome.org

Some serious learning is about to happen.

Parliament-Funkadelic's "Mothership" will land at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.

Here's the Mothership landing in its heyday:


George Clinton Dr Funkenstein Mothership by oublierleracismeskyblog

Wikipedia

Detroit musicians who had to wait decades for recognition are getting some high-profile attention lately.

The long-awaited discovery of Detroit musician Rodriguez was highlighted last month, when the documentary about him, “Searching for Sugar Man," won an Oscar.

This month, the once nearly forgotten session musicians for Motown Records will get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

As it turns out, two of those Funk Brothers played a role in Rodriguez' 1970 debut album, "Cold Fact."

Funk Brothers guitarist Dennis Coffey co-produced "Cold Fact," played guitar on it, and wrote the liner notes for it; the late Funk Brother Bob Babbitt played bass on the album.

But as the Detroit News notes, many of those Motown musicians have not lived to see this new accolade:

The Marvelettes have been nominated for a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
billboard.com

Motown favorites, the Marvelettes, have been nominated for a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Starting out as a group of high school students in Inkster, the Marvelettes went on to give Motown its first number one single—the 1961 hit, “Please Mr. Postman.”

From the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

Esther Gordy Edwards started the Motown Museum in 1985. After a recent visit, Sir Paul McCartney "adopted" one of Hitsville's historic pianos and had it restored by Steinway.
user dig downtown detroit / Flickr

It's called "Hitsville USA": the little house on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit that Berry Gordy, Jr. bought as a home for the fledgling record company that grew up to become the legendary Motown.

These days, Hitsville is a museum dedicated to sharing the Motown experience with fans that come from around the world.

One such fan was in Detroit on a Sunday in July 2011. And before he performed for 37, 854 fans at Comerica Park, Sir Paul McCartney had one request: to visit Hitsville.

 Bob Babbitt with Joan Baez
Bob Babbitt / bobbabbitt.com

DETROIT (AP) - Prominent Motown studio musician and Funk Brothers member Bob Babbitt has died. He was 74.

Motown Museum chief curator Lina Stephens says the bassist died Monday in Nashville, Tenn.

Babbitt's son Joe Kreinar tells The Detroit News his father had been in a hospice and had brain cancer.

Babbitt was born Robert Kreinar in Pittsburgh. He and the Funk Brothers provided a rhythmically and melodically rich background for many Motown hits.

Babbitt laid down bass lines on Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," the Temptations' "Ball of Confusion," "Inner City Blues" by Marvin Gaye and Edwin Starr's "War."

Well-known for decades among musicians, Babbitt gained wider public recognition through the 2002 film about the Funk Brothers, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown."

screen grab from YouTube

Don Cornelius, the smooth talking creator of the popular dance television show Soul Train, died today at the age of 75.

From the Los Angeles Times:

"Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius was found dead at his Sherman Oaks home Wednesday morning.

Law enforcement sources said police arrived at Cornelius' home around 4 a.m. He apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.

The sources said there was no sign of foul play, but the Los Angeles Police Department was investigating.

Soul Train was a springboard for new Motown artists in the 1970s.

NPR's Michele Norris tweets, "Soul Train showed us what to listen to, what to wear, how to dance, how to VIBE, how to be unapologetically fabulous. RIP Don Cornelius."

Cornelius hosted the show from 1971-1993 and coined the show's famous introduction:

The Marvelettes have been nominated for a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
billboard.com

"Please Mister Postman" by The Marvelettes hit number one on Billboard Magazine's Hot 100 the week of December 11th, 1961. The group was formed by five high school students in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, originally going by the name The Casinyets (short for “Can’t Sing Yet").

"Please Mister Postman” featured lead vocals by Gladys Horton, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 66. It was the biggest hit The Marvelettes would have. The group also scored with classics like "Beechwood 4-5-7-8-9", "Too Many Fish In The Sea", and "Don't Mess With Bill".

User bazylek100 / Flickr

Calling all opera singers: Aretha Franklin wants to hear from you.

The Queen of Soul says she wants to find the next Jessye Norman or Barbara Hendricks:

"Some of the older classical singers have retired and they’re not singing anymore, and I’d like to see some younger singers come along and take their place."

Esther Gordy Edwards started the Motown Museum in 1985. After a recent visit, Sir Paul McCartney "adopted" one of Hitsville's historic pianos and had it restored by Steinway.
user dig downtown detroit / Flickr

Esther Gordy Edwards gave her brother, Berry Gordy Jr., an $800 loan to start Motown Records back in 1959. She went on to become an integral part of her brother's company and started the Motown Museum back in 1985.

Edwards died last week at the age of 91. Today is her funeral.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Hundreds are expected to say good-bye to Esther Gordy Edwards, the sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. who helped him build the company and led efforts to turn its original Detroit headquarters into a museum.

The funeral for Edwards is 11 a.m. today at Bethel AME Church in Detroit. She died last week at age 91.

Eastern Michigan University Archives

Update 2:49 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett spoke with Motown Museum CEO Audley Smith.

Smith said Edwards was instrumental in starting Motown. From Hulett's report:

Edwards served as the label’s vice president, its corporate secretary, and its director of international operations.

But Motown Museum CEO Audley Smith says even before that, she established a "savings club" for her family’s entrepreneurial pursuits.

"And that fund was where Berry Gordy got the first $800 to start his record company," said Smith.

Smith also said that Edwards was a mother figure to many of the Motown artists who became stars.

"She felt that by sharing her love and her wisdom and her guidance and her time and her resources and her tough love, that she could make a difference in the lives of young people," said Smith.

Hulett reports that Edwards stayed in Detroit after her brother moved the Motown label to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. She started the Motown Museum in 1985, which sees 60,000 visitors a year.

1:05 p.m.

Esther Gordy Edwards, the elder sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr., died last night at the age of 91.

From the Associated Press.

The Motown Museum made the announcement Thursday. The museum, which Edwards founded, says she died Wednesday night in Detroit surrounded by family and friends. Edwards was a Motown executive for nearly three decades.

She served as senior vice president, corporate secretary and director of Motown International Operations, where she was charged with exposing the famed "Motown sound" to international
audiences.

Berry Gordy Jr. released a statement today saying his sister was "was the most educated in our family and was the go-to person for wisdom in business." Berry Gordy Jr. praised her for preserving Motown's history after he sold the company 1988:

Esther turned the so-called trash left behind after I sold the company in 1988 into a phenomenal world-class monument where Hitsville started—The Motown Museum.She preserved Motown memorabilia before it was memorabilia, collecting our history long before we knew we were making it. She nurtured and held it together through the years, protecting the Motown legacy for generations to come—which is only one of the reasons people all over the world will remember and celebrate Esther Gordy Edwards. Despite my sorrow, I will proudly continue to honor and celebrate her. She will always be my big sister and she will forever live in my heart.

Billboard Magazine writes that this is the second loss Motown has suffered this week "following the death Tuesday of legendary Ashford & Simpson songwriter, Nick Ashford."

The Detroit African American History project writes that Esther Gordy Edwards was born in Oconee, Georgia and moved to Detroit as a child. She's a graduate of Cass Technical High School and attended Howard University and the University of Michigan. She was married to former Michigan State Representative George Edwards.

Judy van der Velden / Flickr

A remake of the seventies Motown-inspired movie Sparkle will be filmed in metro Detroit and employ 266 people. The state approved a three-million-dollar film incentive for the seven-million-dollar project. Sparkle tells the story of three  sisters’ journey to musical fame during the height of the Motown era in Detroit.

Michelle Begnoche is with the Michigan Film Office. She says the film will stimulate Michigan’s economy.

"This is a project that’s focused really a lot on hiring Michigan workers for its crew so we will see the economic benefit from that – hiring our workforce – and then obviously it’s something that we can use on the backend after it comes out to kind of help promote tourism in the Detroit area," Begnoche said.

Producers hope to release Sparkle in 2014.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Everyone has heard of Motown Records, but few probably remember its Los Angeles offshoot, MoWest. It didn't last long — only two years — but during its life span, MoWest allowed Motown to try out new styles and genres and create one of the most eclectic rosters in the label's long history. Most of MoWest's releases have been out of print the past 40 years, but a new anthology called Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown's MoWest Story 1971-1973 finally highlights the label's life and legacy.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Motown sound will take center stage at the White House tonight.

More than 100 students will be at the special musical event, including several from the record label’s hometown of Detroit.

Detroit-native Augustine Cox loves music. The 17-year old says she's known she wants to go into the music business since she was in second grade; she wants to be a performer or a music producer.

When Cox, who goes to Birch Run High School, found out she was picked to go to Washington, D.C. for a Motown tribute concert at the White House, she was thrilled. She grew up listening to "the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, the Marvelettes, Smokey Robinson." Cox says she listens to today's music, too, "but when I want to hear real music and real passion, I throw on a Motown CD."

Her current fave? The Best of Michael Jackson.

(ktkatrina) / Flickr

The Queen of Soul's health has been of much concern of late.   But, after making a pre-taped appearence on the Grammy Awards, Aretha Franklin's health looked much improved.

The Associated Press reports Franklin will return to the concert stage this Spring:

Marcus Belgrave's Sounds of Detroit

Jun 11, 2010
Courtesy of Marcus Belgrave

Ann Arbor, MI Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye. Those are some of the big names of Detroit music. But another name worthy of top billing is trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. He's been a fixture in the Detroit scene for decades, and has covered everything from avant-garde to jazz standards. He even played on some of Motown's greatest hits.

Belgrave was recently honored by the Kresge Foundation as their Detroit Eminent Artist of the year. We sat down with the jazz trumpeter to talk about his life in music.

"This is Marcus Belgrave, eminent artist award for the year. I'm very excited about this award because it chronicles my life in Detroit for the last 40 years.