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Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Emerging From The Shadows

Short days and long nights got you in a funk? I found a great way to add some light and sparkle to these dark December days. Go see “Standing In the Shadows of Motown.” This movie is a pure delight. If you don’t emerge from the theatre with some spring in your step and a smile on your face--well, you’re beyond hope.

It’s a documentary about The Funk Brothers--the group that was the backup band for all those wonderful Motown hits. They were the real sound of Motown. The singers—who enjoyed all the fame—just embellished it. I and almost everyone else never knew that there was one band that backed up all these songs. One just assumed that Marvin Gaye, for example, came in with his band, ditto Stevie Wonder, ditto The Supremes, and so on. But, no, it was all The Funk Brothers.

To prove the point, the movie stages a concert in which the surviving Funk Brothers play their old arrangements--and modern-day singers, such as Joan Osborne and Chaka Khan--do the vocals. After several of these reprises, it becomes very clear from where the real soul of “soul” actually came.

It’s so great to see these guys come out of the shadows after all the years of neglect. May their album go platinum! If the movie doesn’t come to your town, rent it when it comes out. Let’s help these guys make some well-deserved money while they still have some time left to enjoy it.

The movie definitely took me back to those heady days of the mid-to-late 60’s, the prime of Motown. There were three major currents going on simultaneously: Motown, the British invasion, and the rise of the homegrown psychedelic bands. It was enough to make your head spin and keep your feet busy.

Jill and I had fun comparing notes on our memories from this period (we didn’t know each other then). We tried to recall the first time we encountered pot being smoked in a public place. For her it was The Doors at Madison Square Garden. For me, it was Jefferson Airplane at Bill Graham’s original Fillmore Auditorium.

Anyway, go Funk Brothers!


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