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Plot:

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.

Also Known As: Hitfabrik Motown, Sti skia tis Motown, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Τα Μελωδικά Τραγούδια της Motown, Dans l'ombre de Motown, Оставаясь в тени Мотауна, Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Story of the Funk Brothers

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  • cetnaa-paattil
    cetnaa paattil

    You WISH this was great filmmaking, because the story it’s trying to tell is so important. Here is the tale of the guys who backed up Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and NEVER got the credit they deserved. It’s a tale about some great local musicians, from a wide variety of backgrounds, with a sad ending. From the very beginning, I felt that the filmmakers didn’t quite know what tone or form to use to tell this story. Is this a concert film, a historical film, or something more personal? “Shadows of Motown” ends up covering way too much ground, some of which work better than others. The postivies include Andre Braugher’s solid narration, recollections about James Jamerson and guitarrist Robert White’s frustration and upbringing, and the little stories about sessions with Stevie Wonder, Marvin, and others. It’s great to hear how spontaneous pop music could be back then: it’s especially enlightening to hear Jack Ashburn remember how back then everybody wanted to be Miles Davis or Charlie Parker, “no matter what instrument you played.” Likewise, the story about Jamerson’s growing up in the Old South and the shots of that area are wonderful: once you understand that upbringing, it makes perfect sense that California life just didn’t jive with Jamerson’s way of living. The real problems come with the attempted anecdotes about “the band” and the concert performances: the anecdotes are only funny if you WANT them to be funny. INDIVIDUAL stories are interesting, but connections and re-enactments of the band seem rather lame by comparison. You want to feel there was some real connectivity to the Funk Brothers. (There is that one great story about the Lugar.) Justman does not do the BAND justice: they come off just seeming like a bunch o’ guys. I got names mixed up quite frequently, and this problem was especially evident in how often Justman had to use chyrons to the very end of the film. The story about what the Detroit riots did to Motown and indeed to black and white relations deserves a bigger highlight, and it seems here almost an afterthought. I personally liked Me’Shell Ngedecello, Gerry Levert, and Joan Osborne, especially, pouring their souls into the music. Unfortunately, they are also the PROBLEM with the performances. Besides the interactions between Gerry Levert and the saxophonist on Shotgun, and the strong “TELL ME!” rep that Osborne brings into “The Broken Hearted”, The Funk Brothers are once again the afterthought in the songs. This film will be compared perhaps to “Buena Vista Social Club,” which is a better made film with stronger personalities and performances in a far more surreal environment. Buena Vista, by comparison, felt far less contrived and more naturally humorous. More than that, though, there truly was something magical about watching Ibrahim Ferrer walk through Midtown Manhattan that night, marveling at where his life had gone: THAT MAGIC OF RE-DISCOVERY IS MISSING FROM THIS. The most telling shot of the entire film is right at the beginning: it’s this man, Joe Turner, who played piano backup all those years for all those hits without recognition, playing in Troy, Michigan at a hotel, unrecognized still yet glad to be doing what he’s good at. In other words, whereas Buena Vista really DID become a hit with their music, which the concerts illustrated, these concerts seem more like CONSOLATION for these great neglected musicians, which really have no effect in their lives. Detroit, you deserve better! ***

  • dr-toth-i-laszlo
    dr toth i laszlo

    This wonderful work premiered last night – 16 November 2002 – at The London Film Festival, where not only did the audience cheer and clap, but they stayed till the very last credit had gone up.Even if you think you know everything there is to know about the Motown phenomenon – for example James Jamerson’s genius as a bass player, or the social context of civil rights and the Vietnam war – there is still much more to enjoy. Most of all the personalities of the remaining Funk Brothers shine playfully and heroically through. Like workers across the globe who actually create the world’s wealth, these guys lined Berry Gordy’s pockets with a fortune that they saw very little of. In this sense they emerge as remarkably generous and unembittered characters, seeming to prefer the joy and laughter of their musical lives to any sense of recrimination.However, this provokes the two questions I would ask of the makers. Firstly, and rightly I think, they have concentrated on celebrating the musical story of a bunch of devoted craftsmen. Plenty of time and space is left just to enjoy their playing at a re-union gig with a variety of guest vocalists. But I wonder why the culprits were let off so lightly ? There’s no attempt by the film-makers to nail Berry Gordy or Smokey Robinson about their treatment of the workers in Detroit, and, Martha Reeves apart, no attempt to show how the likes of Stevie wonder, Levi Stubbs or other surviving front-men benefitted at their expense. I think that would have added to the dramatic aspect of the film.The second question is what does this tell us of the contemporary world, of music and culture ? Was it just a once-in-a-lifetime set of variables that allowed a bunch of music-mad jazzers to improvise and jam in downtown clubs for peanuts, then feed those riffs and hooks into the half-formed directives of Holland-Dozier-Holland tunes and lyrics as their day-job ? Has the industry displaced the artistry ? Despite his songwriting, talent-spotting, personnel management skills was Berry Gordy always going to put profits before people ?Neither of these questions should spoil the utmost quality and searing emotional punch of this movie, a fifteen-year labour of love. Participant singer Joan Osborne was coincidentally in London and spoke at the screening. She told how these songs were almost part of our DNA, we seem to know their words and tunes without thinking. But maybe we could have a sequel which asks my questions and seeks some reparation for these mighty, mighty musical providers. Even servants deserve dignity and reward.

  • dr-raymond-newman
    dr raymond newman

    Jack Ashford, Hank Cosby, James Jamerson and Son, and all of the Motown FRONT OF THE SCENE musicians- you all exploded on this movie!!!! It was a long time coming. I am so elated and personally excited about the success for one main reason – I was musically and personally involved with the music and the fellows during this time. I was fortunate to have Jack Ashford produce several songs for my group, “Softouch”. Jack is a wonderful man, as was Hank and many of the other gentlemen featured in this movie. What a history to have worked with these guys in my lifetime. There was so much soul and heart in this movie – it was more than musicians talking about their past and what they contributed – it was as if these guys were laying down the foundation and most important ingredients to a wonderfully baked cake with all the icing and toppings! I am now a teacher and I use this movie as a very important drop to my students who are so much into ‘rap’and the like. When they see and hear where the music REALLY originated from, they are all in shock. This is a generation who is now being able to feel the heat and experience the explosion that I experienced. This feeling will never go away. I love this movie as much as I love the people whose lives this movie tells. Hey Charlene and kids! Opal, Alicia and I still talk about you guys! Memphis!

  • rohn-lodii
    rohn lodii

    Why wasn’t Motown and former Motown acts, many are still around and touring, used in the movie? What about the background singers like the Andantes who sang on nearly as many recordings as the Funk Brothers played on? Did anybody talk to any of Motown’s producers, the guys who hired the Funk Brothers for their sessions? What about the arrangers, who actually “wrote” the music. And why do the movie give the impression the Funk Brothers were paid poorly? Earl Van Dyke, at the height of Motown’s rise in the sixties, said he was making $80,000 a year. This was good money for the sixties. As for not being listed on album covers until Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album. What pop\soul musicians of the sixties were? The movie gives the impression that the Funk Brothers were the main reason for Motown’s success. Not true.

  • gweonsiu
    gweonsiu

    I enjoyed this, do not get me wrong, but I have two major pet peeves.1) This movie suffers from a severe lack of chronological basis. Dates & times are left out so the progression of the musicians’ experiences are not put in a context. It’s one thing to celebrate a musician’s life; it’s another to baldly refuse to give that life a sense of history.2) Do we really need to have continual, boring rehashes of old Motown hits by performers whom we’ll never see in five years? Seriously. Ben Harper, Joan Osbourne, Meshell Whateverhernameis – these are flavors of the month. No one will be listening to them in ten years except on nostalgia channels – the music they personally make is unmemorable & the performances here would be better served with clips from old television shows.So watch at your peril: a grand idea is undermined by an attempt to make it “relate” to this generation. The Funk Brothers deserved better.But if this is all they get, it will do.

  • valentina-litvinenko
    valentina litvinenko

    Like Calle 54 and other “music as a journey documentaries” (Buena Vista included) this film plays as a homage to the actual musicians by letting them talk about their own experiences. The funk brothers make it all seem easy. What is revealed is that they played in all the clubs around Detroit almost continuously and so when in the studio they needed a new arrangement for a live take they could oblige in record time. These guys were/are superb arrangers and ensemble players. It combines the concert movie with the documentary insights in a way that is kind to the era but leaves many other questions outstanding. Listening to a few of the solo’s from the likes of Tom Scott and other visitors to the concert will make your heart soar. Gerald Levert and Ben Harper get the chance to really shine with the band from heaven. I hope this documentary gives the “brothers” the chance to reap some of the attention they so richly deserve.

  • jani-kosi
    jani kosi

    STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN sets the record (or literally records) straight at last, and does what Berry Gordy should’ve done AGES ago…reveal the true source of the “Motown sound” that served as the soundtrack for my entire childhood, and most of my early adult life. I’m not surprised that they had more hits than the top five rock and R&B acts in history combined. But what’s even more amazing about them, is how “river deep, mountain high” their influence has been. So much so, in fact, that I knew who they were without KNOWING who they were.It is mentioned in the documentary that they only received credit on an LP for the first time in 1970, for their efforts on Marvin Gaye’s seminal classic “What’s Going On.” But that was not my first real encounter with the Funk Brothers. That happened a few years later. More than likely inspired in part by Marvin’s groundbreaking work, producer Norman Whitfield created his own song cycle about love, loss, struggle, sorrow and hope in an urban setting. With The Temptations, he crafted one of Motown’s (and The Temps) finest albums ever, which shamefully has long been out of print. The name of the album said it all: “MASTERPIECE.”The most amazing thing about it to me, even more than the music locked within the vinyl grooves, is that Whitfield saw fit to thank every musician who worked on the album: Melvin “Wah Wah” Ragin, Bob Babbitt, Richard “Pistol” Allen, Earl Van Dyke, Uriel Jones, Jack Ashford. And about a dozen more. Spellbound, I had no idea even then, that I had just made the acquaintance of the Funk Brothers.Now nearly thirty years later, with this documentary, it’s like meeting them all for the first time. To my knowledge, none of the singers who shot to fame thanks to the Brothers’ talents had ever publicly acknowledged their worth, (and maybe Mr. Gordy knows the reason for that.) But the documentarians have my eternal gratitude for righting this terrible wrong…Maybe not in time enough for James Jamerson, Bobby White or Earl Van Dyke, but at least while a lot of the Old Masters are still with us. For a little while longer.IMHO, the highlights: Joan Osborne, Gerald Levert with Tom Scott, Chaka Khan, both alone and with Montell Jordan, and Bootsy Collins, whose good-timey vibe is still as infectious as ever. But the shining stars of the piece are and now forever will be, The Brothers.Don’t rent this baby…BUY it. You’ll be glad you made the investment, because you’ll find yourself playing the concert cuts over and over again…just like an old Gordy, Tamla or Motown 45.

  • iztok-debeljak
    iztok debeljak

    This is the story of some great people who worked hard to make some great music. Berry Gordy assembled them out of Detroit’s jazz clubs and brought them in to be the foundation of the now famous “Motown sound”. This is their history. Well, they didn’t storm the beaches at Normandy and save the world, and yeah sometimes the narration goes a little over the top regarding the importance of what they did and how it fit in to the times, but all in all, this is a well designed story about some very good musicians that you have heard and loved without knowing who they are.If you love Motown music and/or jazz, this movie is well worth a watch or purchase. The modern renditions of the Motown standard are all moving and/or fun. Bootsy Collins, Montell Jordan, Me’Shell NdegéOcello, Joan Osborne, Chaka Khan and Gerald Levert front the band on some classics that are as listenable as the originals. The secret is that the new backup band behind the singers is pretty much the same band.

  • marta-teruel-coca
    marta teruel coca

    This documentary is based on an extremely interesting group of guys, The Funk Brothers who are responsible for a large amount of Motown number 1 hits, but never got the credit. And now this film unfortunately has immortalized these guys on celluloid in an incompetent documentary. The story is all about how these guys were left in the shadows, more attention was given to the lead singers instead of them. In this film there are a number of songs performed where these guys get to reunite and play once again. But during these songs, the camera spends 80% of the time focused on the singer. Here the documentary works against everything it was preaching. And during these songs whenever we do get a glimpse of the Funk Brothers, we aren’t able to see them play, the camera is swooping too fast, and is too impatient for this. Usually we’ll get a glimpse of a hand playing the guitar and then we’ll see a close-up of a smiling face, and then back to the singer. And that’s another thing, the singers in this film. These guys are so important and yet the best talent they can get is Bootsy Collins, and Joan Osbourne?? Joan Osbourne who is responsible for “What if God was one of us?” which includes classic lines like “nobody calling on the phone, except for the Pope maybe in Rome” is in too many scenes of this film, and why?? Is she related to the director? Was Aretha Franklin busy that day? In the film there are at least 8 songs played in full, not so that we can get a chance to see these guys play, no, since the scenes are focused on the singers anyway, but there are so many songs because the movie has absolutely nothing to say at all. During some of the horribly unoriginal anecdotes, we get to see “dramatizations” of dull stories which seem to echo the cinematic brilliance of an E True Hollywood Story rather than a credible documentary. And through these anecdotes we never really learn about the tribulations these guys were under, we never find out anything about them really, except little cute stories. Suddenly one of the guys will say, “Yeah, that’s when he died of drugs,” but the film has not set up that this individual had been having any problem with drugs. These guys never become clear characters and it is never made clear how they feel about being forgotten, what it was like then, or anything, not from episodic little anecdotal segments placed between songs. And there are two white guys in the Funk Brothers, but there is no dramatization showing either of their pasts. For the other African American guys, we get to see how a boy would strum a guitar string in an ant hole and make the ants dance, and we get to see how another guy made a guitar on the side of his house. But the white guys just get stepped over, they don’t fit into the simplistic minds of the filmmakers. And even the scenes which propel the men to talk about their anecdotes are ridiculous. In one scene we get to see one of the men on his back attempting to play a bass, he then says “Man, nobody can play a bass on the floor like this,” this then spurs one of his buddies to say “No, that’s not true, Jemmerson could do it. Why I remember one time…” Not only does this scene have horrible acting embarrassing these men, but it also has such a contrived premise to bring on pseudo nostalgia that it recalls sitcoms like The Golden Girls when they have one of their “remember the past” episodes. The story dealing with these guys is very interesting, and they deserve to be honored and remembered, but not like this.

  • lise-tveit
    lise tveit

    I just wanted to say that I think that this is going to be a great docudrama, and it really gives a good look into what really went on during the early days of Motown. I was an extra in the movie so I have to say……Its gonna be good. Hope you enjoy it as much as i did participating in the project. I’m just an extra so dont look for anything more than my pretty little face.

  • feofan-reva
    feofan reva

    “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown” is a wonderful insight into the sessions musicians who played on practically every track that Motown Records produced between 1959-1972. Known as “The Funk Brothers”, these talented men helped craft a sound that became distinctive around the world. They were, the musical backbone of the legendary record label.Directed by Paul Justman, this documentary highlights the trials and tribulations of “The Funk Brothers”. With interviews from the surviving members, and concert footage of classic songs from many of today’s artists such as Joan Osbourne, Ben Harper, Me’Shell Ndegeocello and several others, this is an entertaining and thoughtful look at the accomplishments these men have made to contemporary American music and the imprint they have left behind.Fascinating, touching, amusing and at times tragic, this documentary is well worth checking out. For lovers of music and for those who enjoyed a good solid documentary, “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown” delivers the goods on both counts. See how things were done – Old school style…..

  • derrick-rivera
    derrick rivera

    The Funk Brothers, as they came to be known, were (and are) a group of about 20 extremely talented jazz musicians who were recruited by Barry Gordy to be studio musicians for Motown Records, which was just starting out at the time.Cut to a few years later, and the Funk Brothers had played on more number 1 hits than the Beatles, Elvis, and the Rolling Stones combined. If you hear a Motown record by any number of great artists, like Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, the Supremes or dozens of others, that’s them playing that great backing music. “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown” is a movie that finally salutes these unsung heroes, without whom the music of Motown might not have been half so brilliant.The best part of the movie, without a doubt, is the new concert footage. All the surviving Funk Brothers were recently reunited for a concert in Detroit (the home of Motown) to play some of their biggest hits, with a diverse group of singers. These live scenes are so powerful and breathtaking, that it only reinforced my opinion that the Motown music of the 60’s and 70’s is some of the best music ever recorded. Pop music never, ever (before or since) sounded so pure and beautiful as that music does. All these performances are great, but my favorites have to be The Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There” sung by Gerald Levert (which kicks off the movie with fire and energy) and Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted?” sung passionately by Joan Osbourne.The rest of the movie is pretty regular documentary stuff, featuring lots of insightful interviews with the musicians and narration by Andre Braugher.It goes on a little too long (like I said in my review for “Bowling For Columbine”, 2 hours is usually pushing it for a documentary) and some of the re-enactments aren’t as effective as intended.But man, those performances. There isn’t much music I like more than classic soul, and if you have at least a passing interest in it, you’ll be wanting to get up and dance in the aisle just like me.

  • marianthe-basilopoulou
    marianthe basilopoulou

    I have reviewed this movie and I am appalled @ Berry Gordy and the Music Industry for keeping this a secret all these years. It is apparent these musicians, “who were worth their weight in Gold” has been overlooked for the artists they were all these years. I was born in 1958, and one of my first songs when coming to the “city” was “Jimmy Mack” and “ShotGun”. During my childhood years while I was listening to the “Motown Sound” and thinking that “Jimmy Walker and the AllStars” – the Allstars being the ones to produce such a lovely set of musical instrumental sounds, but now to my surprise I learn it is a group of experienced talented men kept in the dark by Berry Gordy who led the Motown Industry into fame by these “Musician’s” unprecedented experience and abilities. I feel a lot of sympathy for those musicians who were obviously overlooked by society – because noone thought enough to “hip” us to what was really going on @ Motown (Berry Gordy). I feel that the Musicians should have gotten the credit and monetary awards which was due, which I now feel was obviously focused on by the industry to be the singer versus the real talent (musicians) which was the underlying key element in the success of the singers that came to Motown. It became obvious to me during the movie that these Musicians did not enjoy the monetary rewards nor the fame that they deserved in life for the services they provided to Motown. There is no doubt that the singers – for instance my idols – Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson were great no matter what band they had behind them. But it was the chemistry of the band and singers at Motown that made the same hit after hit situation that repeatedly occurred over the course of time. They complimented one another, and in a situation in which this thrives there can be nothing but a win – win situation. However, it appears that the real winners in this situation was Berry Gordy and the Artists – moreover Berry, who seemed to screw you all ! Nevertheless, my hats off to the Musicians – you are the foundation and the ultimate “Sound of Motown”! Thank you for supplying my child and adulthood with so much beautiful music!!! I love you guys!Thanks!J.E.B.

  • ashley-bowen
    ashley bowen

    One thing that I always noticed in the traditional “Motown” music from the 60’s is either the sound of the Tamborine or the Vibes. Little did I know it was the same guy on every album.Unlike many “true story” documentaries this was a good story with a happy ending. Most times when we watch documentaries about celebrities we tend to see much of the bad and ugly moments from their past. Certianly nobody is perfect with a squeeky clean background, however, I appriciate the fact that the producer of this movie put more emphasis on the good things and the funny stories and less on the conflicts and the shortcommings. All of the extra features give you a sense of who these people are with the extra unedited footage of the band interacting with one and other. The part about the guys that died before, during, and after production was especially touching because it brought closure to a situation with many loose ends. I feel that this story has a happy ending because those who are still living and those who passed on are satisfied that they were recognized for their contributions.Personally I would have liked to see the concert in its entirety instead of a few clips in between the candid interviews but overall it was a very well balanced and well written story about a band that most people didnt even know existed. Even though most people didnt know about the band, we can all relate because we know the songs. As each musican shares his involvement with Motown I know and “feel” where they are comming from because I probably have listened to their music a hundered times over.

  • samantha-griffin
    samantha griffin

    Although this is probably not the best documentary I’ve ever seen, the musical perfomances more than make up for it. After all these years, The Funk Brothers are tight as hell! It’s also overwhelmingly inspiring to see musicians playing their music so well, and just enjoying it. The looks on the faces of the Brothers while playing are priceless. As for the “new” singers on each track, I was extremely happy with these renditions of classic Motown songs. Yes, Joan Osborne is mostly known for her 90s hit, “One of Us,” but she also is an amazing soul singer who KNOWS her music. I defy anyone to listen to “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” and tell me that it was not an inspired performance. Also Ben Harper and Gerald Levert do fine turns on classic Motown. Sure, these aren’t “A-List” superstars of today. But would it really be about the music if (shudder) Whitney or Mariah got their hands on these songs? And lets face it, the few Motown artists from that era that are still touring today are shadows of their former selves. The vocalists in “Shadows” are well-picked, respected members of a musical elite, who are in touch with their roots, and show that respect in every note they sing, much like the Funk Brothers themselves.

  • michele-valdez
    michele valdez

    The mere fact that these 13 people created so much of the best of American music in virtual anonymity is reason enough to watch this movie. But the performances of those great songs…lots of them, make it a really special movie. I think they could have found some better current singers to perform with them in the concert but even Joan Osbourne can sound good with the Funk Brothers playing behind her. Maybe that’s the point of the movie. Steve Jordan said it best though when he said that Deputy Dog could have sung to their tracks and made hits. And just for the record, I was kind of proud that at least 2 of the 13 were Caucasian. 🙂

  • sarah-freeman
    sarah freeman

    “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!

  • demokrates-nastatos
    demokrates nastatos

    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

  • joshua-lucas
    joshua lucas

    Standing in the Shadows of Motown is a terrific documentary that gives us a wonderful introduction to The Funk Brothers, the musicians behind the hits at Motown. This is their story, therefore little time is devoted to Barry Gordy or the label’s stars. The Brothers emerge as engaging personalities in their own right – it’s a pleasure to listen to them tell their tales of life in “the Snake Pit” (the studio) at Motown.Even more a pleasure is listening to them play and hearing new interpretations of some of the great old tunes. Especially, for me, Bootsy Collins on “Cool Jerk” (Bootsy puts the “fun” in “funk”) and Joan Osborne on “Heat Wave” (the Brothers really groove on this one) and “What becomes of the Broken Hearted” – a stirring rendition that raises the roof and brings down the house! Great stuff. A few of the other new performances are not quite as strong as this, but overall the music is just great. The old guys have still got it. I really loved hearing little bits of their jazz playing sprinkled throughout the movie – in fact I’d like to have heard more of this, but of course there are time constraints in any film. It was also great to hear some of the arrangements broken down to (or built up from) individual parts. It brings home the fact that these guys are really creative players (try to imagine “My Girl” without the “dum da da da da da” guitar lick, for example).I already knew a bit about James Jamerson, the genius bass player for Motown, before watching this movie, but meeitng the rest of these great players and hearing their stories was just a pure pleasure straight through. Good to see these guys getting their props – they are The Funk Brothers!

  • shirole-indrjit
    shirole indrjit

    At 35, I’m too young too have been around when all this great music first appeared. But I truly feel the Motown music in my soul, always have. I still get goosebumps, to this day, when I hear certain Motown songs.Therefore, I spent half this film sobbing, for the beauty & genius of the music, the happiness I felt that that Funk Brothers were finally getting their due, and lamenting, as always, that they simply do not make music like this any more, and never will again.Beautifully filmed, fascinating….if it doesn’t move you, or get you moving, you must be comatose.

  • jonathan-vargas
    jonathan vargas

    This is a “must see” if you are at all interested in R&B, soul, Motown, etc. But it’s really a must-see if you’re a musician yourself.Using archival footage interspersed with recent concert footage and anecdotal recreations, this film follows the careers of “The Funk Brothers” – the men who backed up a who’s who of Motown’s brightest stars from 1959 into the mid 1970’s, and who have played on more #1 hits than the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, and Elvis COMBINED.The movie will be in general distribution Nov. 15 (2002) – I saw it at the Vancouver International Film Festival, where the theater was packed (I’d guess at least half with musicians) – and the response was amazing – people were laughing, crying, shouting, singing along, and dancing in the seats (to paraphrase Martha and the Vandellas)

  • celia-cisneros
    celia cisneros

    Forget VH1, forget MTV, this is the real deal. Even if you loathe documentaries, this film is different – it’s about the music and the musicians that made it, and there’s not a boring moment on film. If you ever liked the Motown sound, if you ever liked music for that matter, you owe it to yourself to learn how so many great recordings really came about. If you like what’s on the radio right now, here’s a rare chance to find out where it all really came from. A lot of the artists playing and singing today were heavily influenced by the Funk Brothers, whether they realise it entirely or not. So if you want to learn who created those sounds in the first place, you must see STANDING. I can’t say enough about this film.Now I don’t want to belittle the talent that stood in front of the Funk Bros., because they deserve a lot of credit. But honestly, after seeing it the first time, I thought about how tragic it is that no one had really done it before. Maybe that’s it’s only flaw – this is a story we should have heard 30 years ago. I probably knew more than most being a musician myself, but there were many aspects that were revelations. To hear these guys play in a live setting again, is above and beyond what you could expect in this kind of work. But it’s here – rent, buy, go see this movie!

  • zorian-grechko
    zorian grechko

    Having purchased, listened to and loved Motown’s records in the 60’s and 70’s, I often wondered who were the masterful (and usually uncredited) musicians responsible for so many top 10 hits. With “Standing In The Shadows of Motown”, I was able to finally put some faces with the riffs that I admired.Although many of the “Funk Brothers” are no longer with us, their legacies live on with those disks by the Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves and so many other great artists. The Funk Brothers defined soul and R & B music in its golden era. These guys played on records that sold in the millions and were being paid “scale” – sometimes as little as $25.00 per song at the time! Amazingly, most recordings were done in one or two takes; a testament to the talent portrayed in this movie.If you love soul music, especially Motown’s releases, this film is a must see. The recreations of the original songs by the remaining Funk Brothers and their guest performers are awesome!

  • luiz-henrique-caldeira
    luiz henrique caldeira

    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.