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Motown: Back-Up Music


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Back-up Music


Part 1:


Standing in the Shadows of Motown is a 2002 documentary film directed by Paul Justman.1  It recounts the story of The Funk Brothers, the un-credited and largely unheralded studio musicians who were the hand-picked house band by Berry Gordy in 1959. They were the band who recorded and performed on Motowns' recordings from 1959 to 1972.  


The film was inspired by the 1989 book Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson, a bass guitar instruction book by Allan Slutsky, which features the bass lines of James Jamerson.


Part 2:


The Funk Brothers produced more hits than The BeatlesThe Rolling Stones, and Beach Boys together. It was their sound, according to Mary Wilson of The Supremes that backed The TemptationsThe SupremesThe Miracles, the Four TopsGladys Knight & the PipsMarvin GayeStevie WonderMary Wells, amongst other noteworthy bands during their tenure from 1959 to 1973.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Wikipedia, and 2NITV, 9:30-11:30, 29/6/'14.


I watched this doco on a cold

winter night in Tasmania some

55 years after this hand-picked

houseband, Motown, formed in1

'59, the same year that Twilight

Zone was released and the same

year I joined the Baha'i Faith, &

won the most valuable player in

the midget Burlington baseball.


In 1973 they moved to LA and

I moved to the Barossa Valley

and Motown came to an end,

as did my first marriage back

in some other time zone, some

other life, seems like some other

person. You boys are getting the

recognition you deserve at last

even if some of you have gone

into that hole where no music is

played....Of course who knows?


Maybe you can all keep playing

in that land of light from which

no man returns, perhaps heaven

will have pleased it so,3 and who

knows what dreams may come.4


I knew nothing of Motown back

then in those 14 years when I, too,

had my first demons, recognition

was slowly evolving, and I played

my own back-up music for a new

religion that would take the world

by storm and, in time, get its own

standing ovation as you did in TO.5


1 This doco, the last great un-mined musical story of the '60s, has finally shone the spotlight on this colorful cast of characters who toiled in "the Snake-pit" of Berry Gordy's hit factory at 2648 West Grand Blvd. in Detroit. They all reunited to promote the film.

2 Steve Jones, "Motown's Funk Brothers cast long Shadows," USA Today, 12/5/'02.


3 Shakespeare, Hamlet, III, 4, line 174.


4  ibid., III, 1, line 66.


5  The Baha'i Faith....The film got a 7 minute standing ovation when it was screened at the TO, Toronto Film Festival in September 2002.


Ron Price

30/6/'14 to 28/11/'14.

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