Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, other music icons join the party
Sixty years ago, a certain sound started making Detroit a home for some of music’s most iconic hitmakers.
The Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye and Martha and the Vandellas were among acts that did much to help the Berry Gordy Jr.-founded Motown Records build its name and its unique place in the industry. Its six-decade milestone is celebrated by some who made the songs – plus many famous peers and admirers – in CBS’ special “Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration” Sunday, April 21.
Recorded at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater, the event features Motown originals Smokey Robinson (who co-hosts with Cedric the Entertainer), Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Martha Reeves. Additional performers include John Legend, Ciara, Ne-Yo, Little Big Town, Meghan Trainor, Boyz II Men, Chloe X Halle, Tori Kelly, Fantasia, Thelma Houston and Pentatonix.
Also appearing is Lamont Dozier, of the legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland trio of producer-songwriters whose numerous 1960s classics born at “Hitsville U.S.A.” boosted the Motown Sound … from Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heat Wave” and the Supremes’ “Stop! In the Name of Love,” to Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” and the Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch).” And that truly is to name only a few.
“It was a fun time and a heavy work time, but it was all gratifying,” the pleasant Dozier says of his Motown partnership with siblings Brian and Eddie Holland, who also are seen on the special. “Three or four times, we had the blessing of having many hits on the charts by different artists at the same time. We just did things we wanted to do, and they all came out as winners.”
Dozier confirms that, particularly in its early years, Motown was infused with a ”family” feeling: “Some of the best times I ever had were from being in the studio with the Four Tops – sometimes at late hours, 3 or 4 in the morning, finishing an album. And telling jokes, eating barbecue and drinking Cold Duck. We made a party out of it.”
Still, Dozier allows he and the Hollands weren’t as renowned by certain artists at the start. He notes Ross and the other Supremes “hated ‘Where Did Our Love Go.’ They thought it was a leftover nobody else wanted. The Marvelettes had turned it down, and they heard about it. They were low on the artists’ roster, though — and after a while, we convinced them to do it. It was an instant No. 1 hit, and 12 or 13 consecutive No. 1’s followed for them. That made Motown, and it also made the Supremes one of the top groups of all time.”