Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Twenty Feet from Stardom

If you're waiting for  "Muscle Shoals" to be released on DVD and still in the holds queue for "Twenty Feet From Stardom" consider watching "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" to make it worth the wait. Like the other titles, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" gives belated credit to the extraordinary musicians who created Motown hits like "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" and "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." Dubbed the "funk brothers," these talented men descended into the creative snake pit of Motown Records on a daily basis and spun gold nearly every time. From groundbreaking Marvin Gaye tunes and giving Stevie Wonder, just a kid at that time, a few piano pointers the stories these men share chart as high as the hits they helped create.

These are names most don't know including Richard "Pistol" Allen, Jack "Black Jack" Ashford, Bob Babbitt, Johnny Griffith, Joe Hunter, Uriel Jones, Joe Messina,  and Eddie "Chank" Willis. They are brought together for a reunion concert with guest vocalists like Ben Harper and Chaka Kahn.  Other funk brothers have already passed, but are still remembered including: Benny "Papa Zita" Benjamin, Eddie "Bongo" Brown, great bassist James  Jamerson, Earl "Chunk of Funk" Van Dyke,  and Robert White.

Many of them were jazz musicians, who would play at the bars at night and bring Latin and be-bop rhythms back to the studio. Detroit was a tough town even then, and there are stories of pistols being drawn and a band member being kicked out of the car onto the snowy road. But mostly there are tales of camaraderie and creative genius of jaw-dropping songs they did in a few takes.  Afterwards you can stoke the afterglow by listening to "Motown Number Ones Vol. 1" and "Motown Number Ones Vol. 2."

--Cindy F., Headquarters

© Copyright 2017. St. Louis County Library. All rights reserved. 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis MO. 314-994-3300 Contact Us