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SHARON DAVIS' MOTOWN SPOTLIGHT - JULY 2016
Huge birthday greetings to Martha Reeves who celebrated her 75th year on 18 July, and to celebrate the lady invited guests to her Birthday Bash at Bert’s Warehouse Theatre, Detroit. Tickets at $10 per person, Martha offered a live band, dance contest, DJs and karaoke, 50/50 raffle where prizes included autographed memorabilia, free consultation sessions and a tour of Hitsville hosted by the lady herself. Way to go! Wish I could have joined in the fun although I’m sure everyone had a great, fun time.

While I type away here and there’s much to tell, am playing “The Return Of The Marvelettes” album, produced by Smokey Robinson. As you know, “In Full Bloom” in 1969 was the group’s final studio album, with the plan to launch Wanda Young as a solo artist. So, with vocal support from the wonderful Andantes, she recorded an album overloaded with cover versions, like, “I’ll Be In Trouble” and “Fading Away” (The Temptations), “Uptown” (The Crystals), “Someday We’ll Be Together”, “A Breathtaking Guy” and “Take Me Where You Go” (The Supremes), “That’s How Heartaches Are Made” (Baby Washington) and so on. Wanda’s version of Kim Weston’s “Marionette” and “A Breathtaking Guy” were lifted as singles, but both, sadly, failed to chart. When Motown executives realised that Wanda’s name wasn’t sufficient to carry the album, the name was changed to include The Marvelettes which, of course, incensed Ann Bogan and Katherine Anderson, the remaining group members. So, if you look closely at the album cover, where three ladies are sitting on horse back, you’ll see two faces are shadowed out with Wanda sitting between them. Having said all this, I have a lot of time for this release which has huge historical value, and, who knows, if things had been different, it could have re-launched one of the finest voices known to Motown. Note to self – play this more often.

With the news that Diana Ross is scheduled to headline Glastonbury in 2017, having been unable to honour the commitment this year, fans are hoping the visit at this oh-so prestigious festival will coincide with the release of new product. News items such as these aren’t, of course, carved in stone but the fact that it’s been widely reported does lend credence to the story. However, can the same be said about the one circulating where Mary Wilson is ‘begging’ Diana to give the thumbs up to a reunion tour? Much speculation is bouncing around that Mary is having money problems and I’m wondering if this is a throw back from an interview she gave to Stacey Tisdale, part one of which has recently been uploaded on the blackenterprise.com website. Talking about her rags to riches story, Mary told the reporter that having money can make life easier “but if you don’t invest or save for that rainy day, it can be devastating. I’ve also learned the dangers of believing that that rainy day will never come.” Mary admitted that her work in the corporate market had dried up “and fighting some bad lawsuits, where people were chasing the name of The Supremes, and fake groups took the savings I had.” She also loaned money to others which wasn’t returned and now realised that her rainy day had dawned, and that after sixty years in the business she was having to work, but, she added “Thank God I love what I do and still have a voice….money can make life easier, as I have had a great life, had I saved, however, it would be even better now.” So, with this interview in mind, perhaps the speculation holds water, and whether Diana agrees, of course, is open to more supposition. And, dare I write it, who would be the third Supreme?

By the time you read this, Stevie Wonder will have performed the double album “Songs In The Key Of Life” in Hyde Park as part of the British Summertime Festival. Before launching into the actual performance, Stevie said he was honoured that the album remained significant almost forty years after its release, but was saddened that “the songs and the words that we talk about, those conditions still exist in the world and that hurts my heart”. He also urged the audience to ‘love over hate, right over wrong, kind over meanness’, and when referring to the Black Lives Matter movement said “All life does matter, but the reason that I say black lives matter is because we are the original people in the world. So in essence, everyone here has some black in you. You’ve all got some soul in you, so stop denying your culture.”
Released in September 1976, it was Stevie’s 18th album and in 2005 was ranked no 57 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the top 500 greatest all time albums. The same year it was entered into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress which named it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. Actually, believe it or not, I can remember going to the debut playback of the album in a listening room at EMI House, and being blown away by tracks like "Love's In Need Of Love Today" , "Village Ghetto Land" , "Sir Duke", "I Wish", "Pastime Paradise" and “As” in particular. Funnily enough, "Isn't She Lovely" didn’t do it for me. But….hey, what do I know. As time passed, of course, I learned to love all the songs because this was Stevie at his very best, his most influential musical period and, boy, did he record some breath-taking diamonds. An extended play disc was included with the special-edition version of the original album, but later available on most CD versions of the LP. Tracks here were “Saturn”, “Ebony Eyes”, “All Day Sucker” and “Easy Goin’ Evening (My Mama’s Call)”.
Not so long ago I ordered the Four Tops’ “Still Waters Run Deep” CD but the release date kept being put back, so much so, that I got bored and cancelled the order. This was released from the same company, Elemental, responsible for Rare Earth’s “Get Ready”, Smokey Robinson’s “Smokey”, and now Eddie Kendricks’ “People…Hold On”, his second solo album since leaving The Temptations. As I recall this 1972 release was quite groundbreaking as this was his concept album aimed at Black America, where he addressed the truth of African-American issues in a time of personal and social change. Anyway I digress….back to the present. Then Jimmy Ruffin’s “The Groove Governor” popped up in my mail box last week. It was first issued in America only during September 1970, and is now destined for UK release this September. There’s also the “Another Song On My Heart – The Motown Years” by Bobby Darin. Does anyone know if these CDs are likely to be available because I’m getting rather confused with release dates and, now, prices? Please contact me on motowntracking@sky.com if you can help this poor ol’ soul. Many thanks.

If you’re Facebook friends with Pam Sawyer, you’ll doubtless have seen recently her note about the lyrics of the 1969 release “I’m Living In Shame” recorded by Diana Ross and the Supremes. Ms Sawyer penned this with The Clan (Berry Gordy, R Dean Taylor, Deke Richards, Frank Wilson, Hank Crosby) as follow-up to “Love Child”. The only Supreme on the single was Diana as the support vocals were provided by the Andantes (Louvain Demps, Marlene Barrow, Jackie Hicks) which seemed to be the norm more often than not, but I’m going off track – again. Pam wrote on her FB page that the song was inspired by the movie “Imitation Of Life” which, by the way, still makes her cry, and that the lyric was intended to depict the breakdown of a relationship between a daughter and her mother. “The belated shame the daughter then feels is for not respecting her mother and that was the real point of the song. You only get one mother and every mother does her best…Diana had nothing to do with the song, other than do a terrific job singing it. (She) did a wonderful job…..as she does with every song she sings. She is the consummate artist.” In her summing up, Ms Sawyer believed “I’m Living In Shame” had the potential to be a great song, and given longer than a day with the writers who hadn’t worked together before, she felt that …if recorded again it could be an even bigger hit than it was. Y’know, Facebook can be a damned pain sometimes, but the upside is we can enjoy privileged access to artists, writers and the like, who are prepared to answer questions, share memories and recall situations. Chris Clark is another who does her utmost to answer all queries and doesn’t shy away from engaging in conversation over the internet. So, to finish off this item, my original thoughts about “I’m Living In Shame” were all wrong as like “Love Child” before it, I believed the subject matter to be more than a little racey for the time. Thank you Pam….

A couple of snippets…Motown:The Musical” returns to Broadway this month. Not to the Lunt-Fontane again but the Nederlander. And, Berry Gordy’s mansion is on the market again, asking price of $1.6 million. This Detroit property, built in 1917, has ten bedrooms, nine bathrooms, several huge, expensively decorated downstairs rooms, and sits in two acres of Boston-Edison real estate. There’s an Olympic sized swimming pool and an athletic building where, by all accounts, you’ll find a billiards room, bowling alley and gym. A little outside my price bracket I’m afraid...but on reflection, what would I do with a swimming pool. I can’t swim!

So, on that note then, I’ll bid farewell for another month. Keep keeping the Motown faith and thank you always for your continued support.


About the Writer
Sharon Davis ran the Four Tops fan club before spearheading Motown Ad Astra, catering for all the Motown acts, where she edited the in-house magazine TCB. Was publicist for Fantasy, Stax and Salsoul before joining Motown Records in London. Formed her own press/promotion company Eyes & Ears, worked for Blues & Soul magazine and website, and became a full time author and researcher. To date Sharon has written eleven books (her last A Girl Called Dusty published by Carlton Books) and she’s working on her next - Divas Of Motown. As a researcher, Sharon assisted Diana Ross with her autobiography Secrets Of A Sparrow, and is now in constant demand for her knowledge about Motown and its artists.
  
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