Regular readers will already know that the mighty Motown label will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2009. To start the celebrations the label has recently issued a special album made up of the top 50 Motown songs chosen by the public via an extensive on-line poll while www.soulandjazzandfunk.com has already revealed that throughout next year the label will be issuing 25 double a-sided 7″ singles featuring a mix of their well-known songs alongside more esoteric items. The good news is, is that there’s a lot more Motown goodies to come…. driven chiefly by Motown main man BERRY GORDY. GORDY told Billboard magazine recently that, ‘I’ve been fighting to protect the Motown legacy for 50 years, and now it seems that after 50 years we can go and talk about the real deal, what really happened…and how it happened, my story and everything that goes with it. And I’m just thrilled that I’m here to enjoy now what I couldn’t enjoy while I was doing it.’
GORDY also revealed plans that he and former Motown staffer SUZANNE DEPASSE, who won a 1983 Emmy Award for the Motown 25th anniversary TV special, are also producing a documentary about the company that’s due to roll out in September. ‘It’s about me and … not only what I did and how I did it but how I felt doing it and what it was that happened, from my standpoint,’ explained GORDY. Among the footage is a videotaped session of one of the company’s famed weekly Quality Control meetings, at which staffers argued over whether or not to release THE TEMPTATIONS’ ‘My Girl’ as a single. The Motown founder also revealed that a Broadway musical about Motown is due to open in 2010, and GORDY says there will also be ‘long-form, multi-part videos’ about the company’s history ‘because there’s so much to tell. The documentary is just a two-hour thing.‘ CD-wise Universal are about to release a box set, ‘The Complete Motown No. 1s’… a massive 10-CD collection containing every Motown No. 1 from every U.S. chart from every genre and every international chart, adding up to a staggering 189 tracks that hit the top spot, plus 12 bonus tracks whose cover versions were No. 1. This special, once-in-a-lifetime, set is housed in a replica of the original Motown headquarters: the ‘Hitsville U.S.A.’ house on Detroit’s West Grand Boulevard.
In addition to this collection – as previously reported on www.soulandjazzandfunk.com – February 2009 will see the start of a series of limited edition 7″ vinyl releases that will feature 50 classic Motown cuts over 25 single releases. Further key releases for 2009 will include the latest in the award-winning ‘The Complete Motown Singles’ series, with Vol. 11A & 11B (1971) due for release on January 26th and Volume 12 on April 13th, respectively, while a new series entitled ‘The Definitive Collections’, will see releases from legendary Motown artists such as THE TEMPTATIONS, GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS, MARY WELLS, JR. WALKER, FOUR TOPS, THE MARVELETTES, THE SUPREMES, SMOKEY ROBINSON and MARTHA REEVES.
January 26th 2009 is, again, a key date for the Motown 50 diary, when the Motown Digital Vault is fully opened. The first batch of digital releases will be themed titles such as ‘A Taste of Honey: Motown Girls’, ‘Motown Breakbeats’, ‘Motown Funk’ and ‘Motown Mod’. These digital releases will be followed throughout the year by further themed releases and individual artist collections, notably, ‘Motown Covers Lounge’, ‘Motown One-offs and Rarities’, ‘The Early Years’, ‘Motown Today’, & ‘Motown Northern Soul’, with the individual artist digital compilations coming from the likes of Motown heavyweights THE SUPREMES, THE TEMPTATIONS, MARVIN GAYE, THE FOUR TOPS, STEVIE WONDER and SMOKEY ROBINSON. Other notable inclusions on the Motown 50 release schedule include the 4th instalment of the critically acclaimed ‘Cellarful of Motown’ series, and comprehensive ISLEY BROTHERS and MARVELETTES anthologies.
Also upcoming throughout the Motown 50 celebration are releases of classic Motown television specials in a series of DVD collections and ‘INSIDE MOTOWN’, a multi-part documentary on how the company was built. Other standout DVD releases due for release during 2009 include releases from DIANA ROSS (‘The Solo Years’) and STEVIE WONDER among others. Web-wise, The Motown 50 UK website (www.motown50.co.uk) will be launched on January 1st, to coincide with MARTHA REEVES AND THE VANDELLAS’ performance on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny! on BBC2. Look out for further Motown coverage on www.soulandjazzandfunk.com throughout 2009.