Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Standing in the Shadows of Motown

They called themselves The Funk Brothers... a band of Detroit jazz and blues men, first recruited by producer Berry Gordy in 1959, to play backup for Motown Records recording sessions. Playing in the shadows behind the greats... Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Night and The Pips... It's claimed that they played on more number one hits than Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys combined.

As far as the general public is concerned, these great musicians were pretty much unknown and unheard-of until they were celebrated in this documentary of 2003, Standing in the Shadows of Motown. A couple of old friends of ours, both amateur musicians, were inspired by Grammy Award winning composer and producer Alan "Dr. Licks" Slutsky's book of that same title, which focused largely on the story of the great bass player, James Jamerson. So, they formed a production company and teamed up with Slutsky and film producer Paul Justman to produce this documentary.

An all-star cast of musicians and vocalists was recruited to film and record covers of more than a dozen great Motown hits... to name a few: Bootsy Collins doing "Do You Love Me", Ben Harper for "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", Joan Osborne for "Heat Wave" and my favorite on the playlist, "What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted." Chaka Khan won a Grammy in 2003 for her cover here of "What's Goin' On," and the documentary's soundtrack won a Grammy that year for Best Compilation Soundtrack. And playing behind them all are many of the surviving Funk Brothers... coming out from the shadows and into the limelight... In 2004, The Funk Brothers were awarded a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

We are proud of this wonderful labor of  love that our old friends had the vision for, and worked hard to make happen. Whether or not you are old enough to have heard them back in the day, check 'em out... the DVD and the soundtrack are still available, as is the Alan Slutsky book that inspired this work of art and love.


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