Sunday, December 08, 2002

Standing in the Shadows of Motown (IMDB) (Netflix) (Soundtrack)
The musical common denominator of the Motown era wasn't impresario Berry Gordy, but a loose bunch of studio musicians known as The Funk Brothers. Singers like Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and others would come into the studio with some lyrics and maybe a concept for the melody, and the Brothers would do the rest. Name a Motown hit from the 60s, and they almost certainly played the music that transcended racial boundaries and made Detroit famous for something other than cars. I remember my parents hosting a party when I was eight or nine years old, and as I listened to the music from my bunk bed, I heard a knock on the bathroom door, and the words "Come on, honey, it's the Supremes."

This documentary finally gives them the recognition these musicians deserve, through the usual interviews with the surviving members and a reunion concert fronted by modern-day artists like Ben Harper, plus evocative recreations of key incidents. Missing are scenes with almost all of the big-name artists who made millions off the Brothers' talent, which is telling, but we don't really need their opinion, because the music, and its success, speaks for itself.