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The Motown Story

The Motown Story image
Parent Issue
Day
24
Month
September
Year
1976
Copyright
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
OCR Text

0"000 In 1963 1 -l"two more Motown acts made 1 il big: twelve-year-old Stevie Wonder, ntroduced to Tamla by one of the Miracles, -""""nie White had a Number One record with "Fingertips" and tha and the Vandellas (who had, the previous year, been the first group signed to the Gordy label after working as session singers for Marvin Gaye) carne big with "Heat Wave." In retrospect these two records, so similar in their energy and bluesy vocals, point a clear contrast: Motown past and Motown future. Gordy had had a problem in deciding how best to record Steyie Wonder, and, after his first two singles had flopped, he was put in the hands of writers Hank Cosby and Clarence Paul. ".Fingertips" is a superbly raucous R&B record-live effects, crude horns, Stevie's clumsy harmonica and wailing child's voice. U's an oldfashioned black sound; the enthusiasm, the reality of t all, make the record. "Heat Wave," written for Martha by Holland, Dozier and Holland, is equally energetic but tightly controlled:everything-the restrained brass, the Vandellas' chorus lines-is designed to enforce the compulsively insistent beat. Only Martha herself is controlled, I and t's . the resulting rhythmic tensión, the precisión of it all, that 1 makes it a classic. 'Fingertips" was a nod to the music from which Tamla-Mo town had emerged; "Heat Wave" had the elements of what was to become the Motown Sound. In one sense Smokey Robinson's Motown era was coming to an end; he had written (and was to write) more brilliant pop songs than anyone else ever, and sang them with an inimitably expressive voice; without them TamlaMotown would never have survived its early years-but songs, however perfectly produced and performed, are not a sound, and it was a sound that Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier (never such good songwriters as Smokey) were on the verge of creating. It wasn't there yet-neither Martha Reeves nor Smokey Robinson (in "Mickey's Monkey") nor Marvin Gaye (in "Can I Get A Witness") were quite malleable enough. These were threé classic hits but they were too individual to establish a style. That was to come, o (Continued next week) From THE SOUL BOOK edlted by lan Hoare. Copyright O 1975 by Simon Frith. Reprinted by permission of Dell Pub., Co.Delta BooksSeymour Lawrence Books.