Music Monday: May 16, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

This week is a Motown Music Monday because we have three powerhouses from that genre with birthdays this month. I discovered this polarizing style of singing as a young child thanks to my parents. They bought a K-Tel compilation of this remarkable sound and that four album set changed me in a profound way. The voices from the Motor City became my first great musical love.

Songwriter & producer Norman Whitfield was born in Harlem, NY on May 12, 1940. He co-wrote & produced my favorite Motown song of all time, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” along with other tracks recorded by Marvin Gaye including “That’s The Way Love Is” and “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby”. Whitfield was also one of the writers behind Edwin Starr’s “War” and several hits by The Temptations including “I Wish It would Rain”, “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)”, “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “I Know) I’m Losing You” as well as one of today’s featured songs.

After Whitfield left Motown in 1970 when the label relocated to California, he started his own eponymous recording company. His success as a songwriter continued with hits like “Smiling Faces Sometimes” for The Undisputed Truth and the theme song from the 1976 movie, “Car Wash” by Rose Royce. The mark Whitfield left on music, Motown & the industry is indelible. We lost this prolific artist in 2008.

Whitfield

Norman Whitfield circa 1975. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.).

What is left to say about “The Eighth Wonder Of The World”, Stevie Wonder, who turned 72 last week? The child prodigy born Stevland Hardaway Morris on May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, MI began his career in The Motor City at age 11 as Little Stevie Wonder. His career grew even bigger as an adult in the 1970’s with three Album Of The Year Grammy awards for Innervisions (1973), FulfillingnessFirst Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976). His career grew from there and today, with over six decades of musical brilliance under his belt, Wonder continues to show us all how talent is defined.

Stevie wonder

Stevie Wonder circa 1974. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

“The Empress Of Soul” Gladys Knight will celebrate birthday number 78 on May 28. She was born that day in 1944 in Atlanta, GA & began singing in the church by age five. Three years later, she won an amateur hour contest on a local TV show, then joined her brother (future Pip Merald “Bubba” Knight, Jr.) and a few other relatives to form a group, By the late 1950’s, they were signed to Brunswick Records and were opening shows for Jackie Wilson & Sam Cooke. In 1966 Knight & her revised group, The Pips, signed with Motown. But their real success came with their next label, Buddah Records, in the early 1970’s. Knight became a solo act in the following decade & collaborated with the likes of Elton John, Ray Charles, Patti LaBelle and others. She also became part of the James Bond movie music legacy when she recorded “License To Kill” in 1989. She remains one of the greatest female singers of all time.

Gladys 1

Gladys Knight circa 1972. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.).

NOTE: Both Wonder & Knight appear in the stunning Oscar-winning 2021 documentary, “Summer Of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”. If you have not seen it yet, PLEASE stop reading now (you can come back later) and head over to Hulu NOW to watch it. You cannot go another day without the music & performances from this film in your life. You’re welcome.

The Temptations: “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” (1966, written by Norman Whitfield and Edward Holland Jr.).

Stevie Wonder: “I Was Made To Love Her” (1967, written by Stevie Wonder, Lula Mae Hardaway, Sylvia Moy and Henry Cosby).

Gladys Knight & The Pips: “Midnight Train To Georgia” (1973, written by Jim Weatherly).

Stay safe & well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 317

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Shakespeare music

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

Time for another mid-week Motown break & unbelievably our last one for January 2021 already. I tend to see Marvin Gaye’s career with the label in three parts: his early years working with the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland (“How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”, “Little Darling (I Need You)”, “You’re A Wonderful One”), the later years featuring the songs written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield (“I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, “That’s The Way Love Is”, “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby”) & his social awareness period (“What’s Going On”, “Mercy Mercy Me”, “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”. Today’s song is my favorite from the early years.

Up early in the morning with her on my mind
Took to find it out all night I been cryin’
But I believe a woman’s a man’s best friend
I’m gonna stick by her till the very end”
.

Marvin

holland_dozier

Top: Marvin Gaye circa 1964. Bottom (L-R): The legendary songwriting team at Hitsville USA circa 1964: Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland and Brian Holland. (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Marvin Gaye: “Can I Get A Witness” (1963, written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 247

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

kurt v

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are in a serious situation, but I need a break from the gloom, doom and bullying by way of hoarding. Music has always been my refuge and watching those beautiful Italians singing to each other from their balconies reaffirmed my belief that music is the answer. So until the old normal returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day.  And if this helps anyone else, even better.

Time for another mid-week Motown break. The most well known songwriting team to come out of the Motor City was undoubtedly Holland-Dozier-Holland. Just behind them, however, was the prolific duo of Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield. They wrote some of my favorite Marvin Gaye songs (“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Day 17), “That’s The Way Love Is” (Day 102), “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby”), a few of my favorite Temptations’ songs (“I Wish It would Rain”, “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You) (Day 44)”, “I Can’t Get Next to You”), Edwin Starr’s “War” and many others.

Strong was one of the first singers signed to Motown (when it was originally known as Tamla Records) and was the voice behind its first hit, 1959’s “Money (That’s What I Want)”. He was originally credited as a writer as well (along with label founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford) but Gordy claimed that was an error and eventually removed Strong’s name. But he clearly displayed a talent for songwriting as his & Whitfield’s catalog clearly proves, including today’s song. It may not be as well known as Gaye’s hits and the group behind it may not be as famous as The Temptations (who recorded this tune first) but it is still one fabulous track. And it offers some of the best advice I think anyone has ever received from a song.

Smiling faces show no traces
Of the evil that lurks within (can you dig it?)
Smiling faces, smiling faces, sometimes
They don’t tell the truth”.

Strong vWhitfield

undisputed truth

Top: Barrett Strong (seated) and Norman Whitfield circa 1972. Bottom: The Undisputed Truth (L-R): Billie Rae Calvin, Joe “Pep” Harris ( lead singer) and Brenda Joyce Evans circa 1971. (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

The Undisputed Truth: “Smiling Faces Sometimes” (1971, written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.