Friday, February 29, 2008

Broken Hearted & In A Funk

Joan Osborne with The Funk Brothers Band, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.
This song has helped and hurt over the years.

BTW, the singer is young enough to be a grandchild of the players.

Shotgun with The Funk

Gerald Levert performing a Motown classic, "Shotgun", with the Funk Brothers for a Friday night and the weekend.

I Didn't Know This.

The last desperate attempt by the Luftwaffe to protect the "Fatherland", German pilots purposely ram American bombers with their planes.

Bonaguil Castle

In southern France bordering High Agenesis and the Quercy natural regions, Bonaguil Castle is one of the best illustration of 15th and 16th centuries military architectural designs and is built on the edge of a rock spur.

Hillary's Prime Time?

"Cage fighting" slugs its way on to prime-time TV

Branded as barbaric by critics in the 1990s for its lack of rules, mixed martial arts, or MMA, has evolved into a more mainstream sport that bars biting, eye-gouging, head-butting and strikes to the groin.

Bill, I presume, is at least somewhat relieved by the newer rules.

The Beginning & The End

Hillary Says It's OVER!

If this ad doesn't say, "I'm through" I don't know what will.

Detroit's One And Only Funk Brothers

Motown had some great songs and some great players. Being a white kid in Detroit at a private school in the mid sixties wasn't just a challenge, it was laughable for me at least. Rockin' out to the MC-5, getting to hang with Mitch Ryder, watching Iggy bleed and hearing Motown change was heady stuff for a kid who had finagled his first set of drums by getting all "A's" and first seat as a trumpet player in the school band. I was playing trumpet pieces written for classical music and marches during school hours while wrestling with classical literature and Greek by day, teaching myself drums at night playing to Booker T and the MGs and Ramsey Lewis Trio records and going to clubs to listen. No easy feat for a kid who was 5' 5 1/2", 189lbs, all stuffed into a suit that made me look like the Michelin Man and just as white. I was not a hit in Detroit. Not in 1966. I never knew just how much Motown's Funk Brothers had influenced me.

If you have ever listened to music from that period, pre-Beatles, you have tapped your foot to the Funk Brothers. If you haven't heard the music you have tapped to their influence. If you haven't tapped your foot (or tried to shake your hips) get an EKG. You need it.

They are Motown's unsung heroes. Known as The Funk Brothers, the studio band put the backbeat into hits for Diana Ross & The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, etc. They played on more #1 records than The Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley combined, but no one knew their names.

Then you get to the artists that the Funk Brothers played for and with that weren't as famous, but created what was known as the Motown Sound before Phil Specter's wall-of-sound, the wah-wah pedal and other techniques. The players who were from Memphis, Tuscaloosa, the fields of Georgia and every no count town in between worked Detroit day jobs and jammed, formed bands and played late into the night often going straight to their day job after a gig. Players like Eddie Floyd, Mable John, Big Joe Turner and Little Willie John (Fever) were all crashing their styles together in small clubs and back rooms before Barry Gordy and his secretary Martha Reeves ever showed up. Thus the Funk Brothers were born.

Gordy was cleaning up "negro" music to appeal to the much larger white audience. It was a very smart business move. Gordy created a "transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues" so successfully that Dusty Springfield, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and even Pat Boone were stealing riffs, sounds and entire songs to make them stars. Gordy, born into a middle class family, also decided that the soul musicians recording with him needed discipline, style and his work ethic. He brought in experts to shape the onstage persona's of groups like the Marvlettes, the Supremes and Sam Cooke. He also brought union methods to corral and control "his" musicians through exclusive contracts for everything including performers and studio musicians. In my opinion, Gordy got very rich by making the Detroit sound suck.

The Funk Brothers were sneaking all over Detroit playing studio sessions for everybody they could as Gordy's thugs chased them, threatened them and "fired" them. Sometimes the Funk Brothers would do multiple recording sessions in one day and still play the clubs at night. Gordy fired them as a group and individually more times than he got married and divorced which is no easy accomplishment, but even the "genius" Gordy knew that he needed them more than they needed him. Gordy got rich and created fame (while denying them to the Funk Brothers), but the Funk Brothers made history and a sound that will outlive the saccharine sounds of Motown Detroit and the even worse Motown LA.

I'm writing this because late last night I watched "Standing in the Shadows/Motown" about the Funk Brothers. What an incredible documentary. I cannot recommend it more highly. I bought the soundtrack faster than a Ronco slicer and suggest you do the same. You can get it HERE and forgo that EKG as you start tapping from start to end. Come on, you know you really hate to love hearing Bootsy Collins sing "Cool Jerk", but you do, don't you? Where are my star glasses when I need them.

Notable members of the Funk Brothers
Early members included bandleader Joe Hunter and Earl Van Dyke (piano); James Jamerson (bass guitar); William "Benny" Benjamin and Richard "Pistol" Allen (drums); Robert White, Eddie Willis, and Joe Messina (guitar); Jack Ashford (tambourine, percussion, vibes, marimba); Jack Brokensha (vibes, marimba); and Eddie "Bongo" Brown (percussion). Hunter left in 1964, replaced on keyboards by Johnny Griffith and as bandleader by Van Dyke. Around the same time Uriel Jones joined the band as a third drummer.
In 1967, guitarists Dennis Coffey and Melvin "Wah-Wah Watson" Ragin, who introduced the wah-wah pedal sound that defined Motown's psychedelic soul records, joined the band. Benny Benjamin died the next year, and Bob Babbitt began to replace James Jamerson on many recording dates. The Funk Brothers were a racially integrated band. Most members were black; Messina, Brokensha, Babbitt, and Coffey were white.