Skip to comments.A Motown Reunion for History: Stevie, Smokey, Diana, Gladys, Mary and Berry
Posted on 04/19/2013 4:48:46 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Motown: The Musical was almost as good as Motown: The Dyfunctional Family Reunion last night as the living principals of the greatest record company in history gathered one more timeand maybe one last time. For the Broadway premiere of Berry Gordys musicalalready a hit with a $16 million advance and lines around the blocklast nights audience at Lunt Fontanne Theater got more than we ever could have bargained for. True, Sting and Bono were each there with their respective wives, so that was very cool. And Clive Davis had an aisle seat up front, and there were plenty of luminaries from the record business including Doug Morris, L.A. Reid, and Sylvia Rhone.
But the real story was Motown. Stevie Wonder flew in from Las Vegas after playing at Quincy Jones and Michael Caines birthday party. Smokey Robinson was in from L.A. Gladys Knight had been recording a new album. Mary Wilson has been a rehearsing a new act for Las Vegas. And then there was the unexpected: Diana Ross, with several of her kids. They were all there to see themselves, and to see each other, and maybe talk to each other, and maybe not.
But when the show was done and the curtain calls came, Ross was first on stage after Berry Gordy, followed by Smokey, then Mary and Gladys followed. Last up was Stevie who literally rolled up onto the stage and was helped to the center. It was a magic moment. In the audience were plenty of people who also made Motown great including Valerie Simpson, who wrote four of the songs in the show with her late husband Nick Ashford; Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier, who wrote so many hits for the Supremes and the Four Tops with Eddies brother Brian; and Claudette Robinson, Smokeys first wife, one of the original Miracles (who by the way looks amazing).
Also at Motown: Jane Fonda and Richard Perry, as well as Gayle King, Jesse Jackson, Hoda and Kathie Lee, David Geffen, Motown music publisher Marty Bandier, Linda Moran of the Songwriters Hall of Fame (theyre honoring Gordy on June 13th), Allen and Debbie Grubman, Mel Lewinter, Tom Corson, Les Moonves and Julie Chen, and Spike Lee in a kind of red-orange jumpsuit and hat, loving every minute.
And no, Mary and Diana still do not talk. Diana didnt look too happy to see Gordy flanked by Wilson and Knight, but it was truce time. Diana, Smokey, Stevie, and Gordy all sat in a clump in the orchestra. At intermission, while everyone was busy meeting and greeting, Smokey sat in his seat with his wife, and cried. There were tears in his eyes. The show is as much about him as anyone else. And its full of his music, from the songs he wrote for himself and the Miracles to Mary Wells and of course the Temptations. Smokey wrote My Guy and My Girl, two staples of pop history.
I did ask Smokey, whom Ive known a long time, how did he decide which group got which song. Like My Guy went to the Tempts: I just wanted to write asong for Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin, he said. It was that simple. I almost didnt write it. Of all the in house Motown songs, apart from Ashford and Simpsons Aint No Mountain High Enough, My Girl is the jewel in the Motown song catalog.
Of course this audience loved the show, cheered the Jackson 5″ wildly, warmed to Jackie Wilson (who wasnt on Motown) and thrilled to Rick James. The show is not historically accurate, and no one cares. Its Broadway, Berry Gordys brother said to me. License is taken. Its okay. The music, sets, performers, choreography far outweigh veracity. If anyone wants to know what really happened, you can read Gerri Hirsheys definitive book, Nowhere to Run and Peter Guralnicks Sweet Soul Music. Otherwise, Motown: The Musical is for dancing and singing along, and coming out of the theater with a big grin.
I find it rather telling that none of them would consider holding the reunion in Detroit.
Smart money is linging up, the council is about to be deballed, new bridge is on the way, and LNG powered ships with ore's from the UP will be headed their way in a few years. This is with or without Detroit goes Chapter 11 or maybe not...
The point is, it will come back with or without the dysfunctionals in charge's approval The sad part is these performers will be too old or dead by the time the Renaissance happens for "another" reunion in "Detwaa"....
Especially not without the Funk Brothers, and we’re losing them fast.
A great time in music history - “Motown”. My lovely wife - Rita and I attended a Concert of “The Temptations” and “Four Tops” last week at the beautiful Tennessee Theatre. In knoxville,tn which is where we live. We were dancing in the aisles.
I lived in Detroit during the rise of Motown - the recording company not the city. I would not venture into Detroit.
For the record I have made 78 trips around the sun.
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