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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
"Standing in the Shadows of Motown" is a documentary that has to be seen by all lovers of popular music. This is a must for all fans of the best sound that came out in the middle of the last century from Detroit. Paul Justman, the director of this extraordinary documentary, takes us into a fantastic voyage to the place where the music was born. Aided by the narration of Ntozake Shange and Walter Dallas, this film will warm up anybody's heart.
The documentary is a tribute to the people that created most of the hits that became popular and went to become classics: The Funk Brothers, as they were known. The survivors of these talented musicians are presented individually, and those no longer living are remembered with anecdotes told by living artists in loving memory of them. These talented musicians gave America, and the world, some of the most memorable songs of its history.
The Funk Brothers' music had such an edge, that everything else written by popular songwriters pale in comparison. Detroit nurtured these magnificent musicians and gave them the base where they were able to excel by creating something that wasn't easily duplicated by their contemporaries, or their followers.
In a poignant performance Chaka Khan, perhaps the best and most original exponent of the genre gives an amazing rendition of the old Marvin Gaye's mega hit, "What's going on". Then, to end the film, this incredible and generous singer is seen and heard with Montell Jordan singing "Ain't no Mountain High", which keep us singing, smiling, and shedding a tear for that innocent bygone era that the sensational Funk Brothers created for our delight and pleasure.
Long live the Funk Brothers and the sound they left behind. Amen!
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