Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002)

PG  |   |  Documentary, Music  |  29 November 2002 (USA)
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Documentary about the Funk Brothers, a group of Detroit musicians who backed up dozens of Motown artists.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard 'Pistol' Allen ...
Benny 'Papa Zita' Benjamin ...
Himself (archive footage)
Eddie 'Bongo' Brown ...
Himself (archive footage)
Johnny Griffith ...
James Jamerson ...
Himself (archive footage)
Uriel Jones ...
Gerald Levert ...


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 Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The best kept secret in the history of pop music. See more »


Documentary | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for language and thematic elements | See all certifications »




Release Date:

29 November 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Story of the Funk Brothers  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$114,442 (USA) (15 November 2002)


$1,600,547 (USA) (21 February 2003)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Montell JordanChaka Khan: [singing] Baby, there ain't no mountain high enough / Ain't no valley low enough / Ain't no river wide enough to keep me from getting to you.
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Referenced in Film Geek (2005) See more »


Nowhere To Run
by Eddie Holland (as Edward Holland Jr.), Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland
Performed by Martha & The Vandellas
Used by permission of Jobete Music Co., Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Courtesy of Motown Record Company, L.P.
under license from Universal Music Enterprises
See more »

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User Reviews

Hard to find a better music documentary
22 December 2004 | by (Houston, Texas) – See all my reviews

I am not a hard core Motown fan, but I have to give this film a 10, because it's the best music documentary I have seen. With just the right mix of interview footage, historical photos, and live performance, STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN takes its place alongside THE LAST WALTZ as a cinematic cornerstone of music history.

Musicians will especially like some of the technical discussions, such as details about how legendary bassist James Jamerson produced his famous groove.

The live musical performances are inspired, with modern singers covering Motown classics, accompanied by the Funk Brothers themselves. I have watched the DVD of this film, and more recently, the high-definition version on ShowtimeHD. The 5.1 soundtrack is impeccably mixed. You can hear every instrument clearly, but the vocalist is not drowned out. With this type of mix, you want to listen to your favorite numbers over and over, concentrating on a different part each time. And, you can rest assured that there is no lip syncing or studio overdubbing. This is real music for real people.

All of the vocalists are superb, creatively interpreting each song, while at the same time paying respect to the style of the original recording artists. Viewers will have their own favorite performers, but mine is Joan Osborne, whose powerful rendition of "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" brought tears to my eyes.

24 of 25 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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