Promoting quality music in Knoxville … by any means necessary.
Knoxville music fans, the inspirations for our Free Music Friday themes come from plenty of sources. As we said when we started this endeavor – back in October 2010 – some weeks are better than others. Well this week, we think we have a good one! It became apparent recently that we have never devoted an entire version of our FMF at knoxmusictoday.com to the absolutely stunning set of work produced by the Motown Records music studio. And that is a shame. But, the good news is that we rectify that this week, and in a big way. And the even better news is that we only have HALF of our Motown selections this week. In a few weeks we will provide Part 2. There is always something to look forward to at the mighty KMT!
Hitsville, USA – The Original Home of Motown Records
And if this week’s feature selections don’t move your groove, we promise not to give you a lecture about the difference between dividends and interest. No, not a chance. All we will do is direct you to check out more than 2 years worth of Free Music Friday FUN in our archives!
The Four Tops are Solid Gold
Reach Out I’ll Be There, I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch), AND Standing In The Shadows of Love by The Four Tops – As you know, many bands change lineups for every album or tour. It is rare for a band to go for a decade with the same lineup. Ummm… try 44 years! The Four Tops began as a group in the mid-1950s as Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton were from two different high schools in Detroit but were urged by friends to perform together at a local birthday party. They performed as a quartet from 1953 to 1997. The group achieved their greatest success with these singles penned by Motown legends Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland – or better known as Holland-Dozier-Holland.
Silky smooth Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
I Second That Emotion AND The Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Would you like to talk about success, people? As you know, everyone judges success differently, but very few could argue with this success - 26 Top 40 hits in the decade between 1960 to 1970. Think about that. 26 in a decade. Wow. That wow would be the credit to William ‘Smokey’ Robinson, Jr. as the lead singer, songwriter and producer of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. Robinson grew up in north Detroit and for a time was the next-door neighbor of Diana Ross.
“If you feel like lovin’ me / if you’ve got the notion / I second that emotion.”
Jimmy Ruffin knows what becomes of the brokenhearted
What Becomes of the Brokenhearted by Jimmy Ruffin – In 1964, Jimmy Ruffin auditioned to join The Temptations. However, his younger brother David was given the job. All was not lost for the elder Ruffin brother though. William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser, and James Dean penned this song to pitch to The Spinners but Jimmy Ruffin convinced the writers to let him record the song at Studio A of Hitsville, USA in the summer of 1966. And the rest, as they say, is musical history… but wait, not so fast my friend. There is a bit more to the story. The song has been covered many times over the years since its original release. In 1992, the producers of the movie The Bodyguard had planned to use the song in the film with the song to be sung by Whitney Houston. However, prior to the release of the movie, another cover of the song by Paul Young was featured in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. So the management team of The Bodyguard selected Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You as the lead song in their movie. And now you know The Rest of the Story.
Oofah, The Supremes!
You Can’t Hurry Love AND Baby Love by The Supremes - Quiz time! What do ”the Darleens”, “the Sweet Ps”, “the Melodees”, “the Royaltones” and “the Jewelettes” have in common? What? No clue? They happen to be a few of the names rejected by Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, and Diana Ross – mainstays of the group known as The Supremes. The group didn’t meet with immediate success. Motown executive Barry Gordy, Jr. originally refused to sign the group until they graduated from high school. But the ladies were persistent and showed up to the studios at Hitsville USA every day after school and provided hand claps and backup vocals for Motown regulars such as Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, and The Temptations. Eventually, The Supremes had a hit of their own with Where Did Our Love Go in 1964 and ultimately became the most successful vocal group in the United States. People, there would be no Destiny’s Child, TLC, or En Vogue without The Supremes. And it all started with hand claps.
The Temptations certainly are snappy dressers!
My Girl, I Wish It Would Rain AND Papa Was A Rolling Stone by The Temptations – Speaking of success, too much of it can be a bad thing. Here is our favorite story of The Temptations -
By 1967, David Ruffin had begun demanding special treatment as lead singer, riding to and from gigs in a private mink-lined limousine with his then-girlfriend, Motown singer Tammi Terrell, instead of in the group limousine used by the other four Temptations. The other members slowly became irritated and annoyed with Ruffin’s behavior. Following Motown’s decision to rechristen The Supremes as Diana Ross & the Supremes, Ruffin felt entitled to the same treatment and demanded that his group be renamed as well, to David Ruffin & the Temptations. Ruffin was also causing friction with Berry Gordy by demanding an accounting of the group’s earnings.
Some of this behavior was attributed to the fact that by this time Ruffin had begun using cocaine regularly, building further tension within the group and causing him to miss a number of group meetings, rehearsals, and concerts. There was a general consensus among the rest of the group that Ruffin needed to be replaced. When Ruffin missed a June 1968 engagement at a Cleveland supper club in order to attend a show by his new girlfriend Barbara Gail Martin (daughter of Dean Martin), it was decided that he had crossed the line. The other four Temptations drew up legal documentation, officially firing Ruffin from the group on June 27, 1968. The next day, Dennis Edwards, a singer formerly of the Contours that Eddie Kendricks and Otis Williams already had pegged as a potential Ruffin replacement, was hired to take Ruffin’s place.
Marvin Gaye knew what was going on
What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye – Storytime. Here is the background of a classic, What’s Going On, as reported by Bill DeMain for Performing Songwriter -
The spring of 1970 was a dark time for Marvin Gaye. His beloved duet partner Tammi Terrell had died after a three-year struggle with a brain tumor. His brother Frankie had returned from Vietnam with horror stories that moved Marvin to tears. And at Motown, Marvin was stymied in his quest to address social issues in his music.
While he was pondering his next move, a song fell in his lap that would provide a channel for all his sorrow and frustration.
The initial idea for “What’s Going On” came to Four Tops member Obie Benson when he was in San Francisco in 1969.
“They had the Haight-Ashbury then, all the kids up there with the long hair and everything,” he told MOJO. “The police was beating on the kids, but they wasn’t bothering anybody. I saw this, and started wondering what was going on. ‘What is happening here?’ One question leads to another. ‘Why are they sending kids so far away from their families overseas?’ And so on.”
Benson shaped his tune with fellow Motown writer Al Cleveland, then pitched it to the Four Tops. But they weren’t interested in a protest song. Obie played a rough version to Joan Baez, who also passed. He then brought it to Marvin Gaye, who loved it, saying it would be perfect for the Originals, a Motown vocal quartet he was producing.
Benson disagreed, giving Marvin an ultimatum. “I finally put it to him like this: ‘I’ll give you a percentage of the tune if you sing it, but if you do it on anybody else you can’t have none of it.’”
Marvin agreed, then set about earning his writer’s percentage of the song. “He definitely put the finishing touches on it,” Benson said. “He added lyrics, and he added some spice to the melody. He added some things that were more ghetto, more natural, which made it seem more like a story than a song. He made it visual. He absorbed himself to the extent that when you heard the song you could see the people and feel the hurt and pain. We measured him for the suit, and he tailored it.”
Marvin was so thrilled by “What’s Going On” that he tracked down Berry Gordy while the boss was on vacation. “I was in the Bahamas trying to relax,” Gordy recalled in a Motown documentary. “He called and said, ‘Look, I’ve got these songs.’ When he told me they were protest songs, I said, ‘Marvin, why do you want to ruin your career?’”
All Motown artists went through a finishing school that taught them to carefully avoid controversial topics in both their interviews and music. But since day one of his tenure at the label, Marvin Gaye was a rebel. He’d come to blows with Gordy over lesser things. He wasn’t about to back down now.
A quote by the vocalist -
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