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In 1959, Berry Gordy Jr. gathered the best musicians from Detroit's thriving jazz and blues scene to begin cutting songs for his new record company. Over a fourteen year period they were the heartbeat on every hit from Motown's Detroit era. By the end of their phenomenal run, this unheralded group of musicians had played on more number ones hits than the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Elvis and the Beatles combined - which makes them the greatest hit machine in the history of popular music. They called themselves the Funk Brothers. Forty-one years after they played their first note on a Motown record and three decades since they were all together, the Funk Brothers reunited back in Detroit to play their music and tell their unforgettable story, with the help of archival footage, still photos, narration, interviews, re-creation scenes, 20 Motown master tracks, and twelve new live performances of Motown classics with the Brothers backing up contemporary performers. Written by
I really loved this documentary. Three key points: (1) I applaud the spirit and energy to put the project- long overdue recognition and praise for great musicians- together. I happen to be a fan of the Temptations movie and saw this DVD next to it. Had I not bought it on a whim, I would be so much more empty. (2) James Jamerson-I would love a documentary on him alone. Not because of his quirks, but because of his tortured spirits; a great movie-making project! Also, upon my research of this topic after seeing this film, I came across an extensive web site, bassplayer.com, with a great tribute page to Jamerson. Among the most outrageous discussions that have not been resolved to my knowledge- who played bass on Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her"? The majority of folks strongly contend it was James Jamerson, however, a woman named Carol Kaye states she was the actual bass player for the song.
I don't know the truth, but I do know that after never hearing the bass in the song for the 30+ plus that this has been one of my all-time favorite songs, I ONLY hear the bass line. That bass line is so masterful, so exceptional, and so unrelentingly funky, that I believe only a virtuoso could have done it. The fact that that song and bass line were done in 1966/67, amidst so many hundreds of other Motown hits and other songs, tells me that the Funk Brothers and James Jamerson were truly blessed talents.
(3) Chaka Khan's rendition of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" is undoubtedly the very best performance I have ever seen her do and is among the top performances ever recorded. That she won a Grammy for the song is amazing. She actually sang it in 2000; the movie was released in 2002 and won the Grammy in 2003! I get teary every time I hear her singing the song in the movie(I replayed this section at least 10 times when I first saw the movie) and I don't think she will ever have another brilliant performance that would match that intensity. Bottom line: I strongly recommend this movie and subsequent deeper research into other great R&B music roots. Rod Walker
10 of 11 people found this review helpful.
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