Tag Archives: Motown

Gladys Knight is 70

GladysKnight.Pips
Also used for ABC Wednesday, Round 15 – K is for Knight:

Gladys Knight & the Pips, if I had thought of them, I could have put in my weekly family music groups. One of those pieces of trivia I’ve long known is that “at the age of seven in 1952, she won Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour television show contest.” In 1953, Gladys,”her brother Bubba, sister Brenda, and their cousins William and Eleanor Guest started a singing group called ‘The Pips’ (named after another cousin, James ‘Pip’ Woods). The Pips began to perform and tour, eventually replacing Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest with Langston George in 1959 and Edward Patten in 1963.”

I felt a bit badly for Gladys and the Pips during their tenure at Motown. Continue reading Gladys Knight is 70

From Which "Grapevine" Did You Hear It?

I love good cover versions of songs. Came across a rather fine list from Popdose. And I so agree with the opening statement: “It’s generally agreed upon that if you don’t have any new flavor to add to the original, you shouldn’t bother doing a cover.”

Certainly can’t argue with the top two, “Respect” by Aretha Franklin*, originally performed by Otis Redding*; and “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix*, originally done by Bob Dylan*. Both of the original artists have acknowledged the transformative nature of these covers. A previous list I saw contained songs that I had never heard of in the Top 10, which I discovered were less than six years old; seems to me these songs need to stand the test of time

But I have one nit to pick over this list, and it’s around the song “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” As noted here and elsewhere, the song by Motown staff writers Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong was first recorded by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles* on August 6, 1966. And Marvin Gaye* recorded his version on April 10, 1967. But Berry Gordy, the head of Motown, hated the song & vetoed the releases by both artists. Continue reading From Which "Grapevine" Did You Hear It?

Martha Reeves Turns 70

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas performed at an Alive at Five concert last month in Albany; I didn’t go, having family obligations. Otherwise, I would have, for sure.

The Times Union newspaper wrote an interesting pre-concert piece about Martha and Vandellas touring in the first Motown Review in 1962, and dealing with segregation.

“We stopped at a few gas stations where they said, ‘No, don’t come in here.’ The first time I ever saw a shotgun face-to-face was at one of those places. The man said, ‘Get back on that bus.’ And he came to the bus with a shotgun and said, ‘Don’t another one of you step on this property.’ I tell you, we learned how to go in the woods.”

She laughs about it now, 49 years later.
Continue reading Martha Reeves Turns 70

Book Review: Where Did Our Love Go?


One of the strategic things I did on my train ride to Charlotte (and back) is that I did not bring any electronic items – no headphones and music, no laptop, except, necessarily, my cellphone. What I did bring were three books.

The first one I read, actually by the time I reached Washington, DC, was Where Did Our Love Go? – The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound by Nelson George, which I purchased at a library sale. I should say that I’m a big fan of George, who has written about American black music (r&b, soul, hip hop, rap) for a number of years. Back when I had a subscription to Billboard magazine, he was a writer there. I even supported his recent Kickstarter project, Brooklyn Boheme:Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Artists Documentary.

The fact that the book was Continue reading Book Review: Where Did Our Love Go?

I'm Walkin', Renee


Walk Away Renee was clearly the biggest hit for a New York City band called The Left Banke. The lead singer is named Steve Martin, but it’s not the noted comedian. The song reached #5 on the Billboard charts in 1966, made the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame list, and is #220 on the Rolling Stone top 500 list. Listen to it HERE.

It was covered by the legendary Motown group The Four Tops, with the great lead singer Levi Stubbs. The recording went to #14 on the pop charts and #15 on the rhythm & blues charts. Listen to it HERE.

When I worked at FantaCo Continue reading I'm Walkin', Renee

My Favorite Years QUESTION


Possibly around the time I was writing about nostalgia, the Wife and I were talking about the favorite years in our lives.

I picked 1969, the year I turned 16, and my parents let me have a huge party. I had a girlfriend, I got elected president of the student government, which made me an irritant to the new principal, and I was figuring out who I was politically, especially compared to the transitional 1968. Music was great that year, too.

Then there was 1978, the year I worked at the Schenectady Arts Council, got a girlfriend, and finally stopped my nomadic existence.

1984 was the year Continue reading My Favorite Years QUESTION

A Solstice Tradition Continues: Ask Roger ANYTHING!


It is once again time for the operator of this blog to hand over the keys, so to speak, when you ask him anything you want. And he HAS to answer. Now he may answer with obfuscation, but he cannot outright lie.

Here are some examples:
What is my favorite song performed by one artist, made more popular by a subsequent artist, but the version I prefer is by the former? (Got that?)

The answer: I Heard It Through the Grapevine, a big, #2 hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips, only to be trumped by Marvin Gaye’s much slower, much more successful, take. In part, I felt badly for the Pips when they would go on the road and people would ask them, “Why are you doing that Marvin Gaye song?”, which had to be irritating to GK&P, enough so that they left Motown at their first opportunity. Moreover, the resurection of Gaye’s version during the Big Chill movie’s popularity made it become actually irritating to me for a time. Continue reading A Solstice Tradition Continues: Ask Roger ANYTHING!