Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Synopsis: In 1959, Berry Gordy Jr. gathered the best musicians from Detroit's thriving jazz and blues scene to begin cutting songs for his new record company. Over a fourteen year period they were the heartbeat on every hit from Motown's Detroit era. By the end of their phenomenal run, this unheralded group of musicians had played on more number ones hits than the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Elvis and the Beatles combined - which makes them the greatest hit machine in the history of popular music. They called themselves the Funk Brothers. Forty-one years after they played their first note on a Motown record and three decades since they were all together, the Funk Brothers reunited back in Detroit to play their music and tell their unforgettable story, with the help of archival footage, still photos, narration, interviews, re-creation scenes, 20 Motown master tracks, and twelve new live performances of Motown classics with the Brothers backing up contemporary performers.
Director(s): Paul Justman
Production: Artisan Entertainment
  8 wins & 14 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
108 min

Berry Gordy started Tamla Records- later

known as the Motown Record Corporation-

with an $800 loan from

a family co-operative in january 1959.

Berry Gordy relied on joe Hunter

to bring talent to Motown.

At the time of filming,

Joe was indeed still playing...

albeit in obscurity, in a Marriott

Hotel lobby in Troy, Michigan.

The music heard is The Funk Brothers'

stage theme song, "The Flick. "

They recorded several versions

in the fall of 1965.

The Hula Hoop was introduced

by Wham-O Manufacturing in 1958.

Rightfielder Al Kaline was the Detroit

Tigers premiere player in the '50s.

Singer Billie Holiday was known as "Lady

Day," a great favorite of Berry Gordy.

He would later produce a film on her

life starring Motown artist Diana Ross.

Before Motown, Berry Gordy was a

successful songwriter forjackie Wilson.

Gerald Levert performs

"Reach Out I'll Be There,"

originally a number one

hit for the Four Tops.

The Funk Brothers recorded the

original backing track on july 8, 1966.

An astounding track, "Reach Out"

illustrates james jamerson's...

fully developed 16th-note

syncopated bass style.

Jamerson took a standard, root-fifth,

cocktail approach to his bass part...

and ran it through

countless rhythmic variations.

Gerald Levert is the son of

Eddie Levert, lead singer of the O'jays.

He was born the year

"Reach Out" was a hit.

The song's percussion

hook was played by a Funk

Brother thumping the head of

a "bell-less" tambourine...

while its memorable

piccolo part is re-created

on stage by its

originator, Dayna Hartwick.

This sequence was filmed at

the Encore record store on

the University of Michigan

campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The people interviewed are

actual store customers, not actors.

Paul Riser was classically

trained. He is best known

as an arranger of hits like

"My Girl," among others.

Grammy winner Stevejordan

worked with Bootsy Collins in the film.

He got his break as the drummer

on Late Night with David Letterman.

Songwriter Edward Holland

began his career as

a singer, best known for

his 1962 hit, "jamie. "

Detroit native Don Was

covered the Temptations' "Papa

Was A Rollin' Stone" with

the group, Was (Not Was).

As a young musician, he gigged

with Funk Brother "Pistol" Allen.

In 1962, Martha Reeves was

discovered at the 20 Grand

nightclub by Motown's A&R

head, Mickey Stevenson.

She worked as his secretary

before signing as a singer.

Therefore, she was one of the few Motown

artists to interact with the musicians.

Motown producer Hank Cosby,

pretending to bejack Ashford...

stands between Robert White

(guitar) and james jamerson (bass).

Joan Osborne sings

"(Love Is Like A) Heatwave... "

originally a number four hit for Martha

& The Vandellas in the summer of 1963.

The Funk Brothers recorded its

original backing track with producers...

Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier

on june 20, 1963.

Joan Osborne released

How Sweet It Is, an

entire album of R&B classics, in 2002.

Tom Scott plays here; Mike Terry, who blew

many such classic sax breaks for Motown...

played on the original recording.

By '63, Motown's chief

technician Mike McLean

had installed a handmade,

three-track tape deck.

Now, lead vocals were

overdubbed, and the Funks would

record not knowing for whom

their tracks were intended.

For "Heatwave," the Vandellas

recorded vocals on the

same day as the Funks, but

at a session later in the day.

In 1955, Black Detroiters

had the highest per

capita income among African

Americans nationwide.

Yet at that time,

African Americans earned

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