Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Standing In The Shadows Of Motown 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
"Do you know who played the music on all those Motown Hits?" asks the off-screen interviewer.

"The Miracles?" one replies. "The Pips?" "The Temptations?"

All those answers are wrong.

The men behind the music of Motown were an unsung team of brilliant studio musicians who called themselves the Funk Brothers - and they played on more #1 hits than Elvis, the Beatles, and many others combined. In those golden days of inexpensive, paper-sleeved 45 RPM hit singles, you just never heard the names or saw them in print.

But you could never forget the sound.

Filmmaker Alan Slutsky discovered the Funk Brothers story by accident, and consequently spent well over a decade bringing the project to life. As he describes at one point on the DVD release of "Standing In The Shadows of Motown," he is "fighting a biological clock" - the advanced age of the musicians, who over thirty years after silent heyday have only begun to taste the recognition they deserved. Many of the original Brothers have passed on since filming began.

It's a heartwarming and bittersweet look into a story that should have been told long ago. Many filmmakers have created fictionalized versions of unsung musical heroes like "Eddie and the Cruisers," "The Five Heartbeats," what have you. The difference is, this tale is true; the names and the faces are real.

...and as the live concert segments (the Funk Brothers fronted by the formidable pipes of Chaka Khan, Gerald Levert, Joan Osborne, Bootsy Collins and Ben Harper) of this movie demonstrate first-hand, they haven't lost a bit of their chops. This one comes heartily recommended.