Tag Archives: Motown

“Coo, coo, ca-choo”

Music written for its own independent existence has long been a part of motion pictures. That is, there are soundtracks composed especially for movies, but there are other songs that are used as part of the soundtrack that were written to stand on their own. By and large, these additional songs were used primarily to give the characters a reason to dance. Sometimes there was a Bing Crosby croon to set a scene, which was then used in Elvis movies. But still, it was mostly dancing, especially in beach movies.

Arguably, the most significant change occurred in 1983 with the release of Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill. In this case, the music—and there is an abundance: “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (Marvin Gaye version), “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Tell Him,” “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark” (Kasdan, along with George Lucas and Philip Kaufman, wrote the screenplay for that movie), “Good Lovin’,” “Strangers in the Night,” “Theme from J.T. Lancer,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “My Girl,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Quick Silver Girl,” “The Weight,” “Gimme Some Lovin’,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (Aretha version), “In the Midnight Hour,” “I Second That Emotion,” and “Joy to the World”—is so fundamental to the plot that it is almost a character onto itself. It isn’t simply to add background to the scenes; even when there is dancing (e.g., the kitchen scene to “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”) it is more organic than is typically the case in movies. (Presumably when Kasdan pursued his MA at University of Michigan, the proximity to Motown was influential.)

There is a bit of music that wasn’t written for a movie that has fundamentally become part of how the movie remains in memory: “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel in the Mike Nichols movie The Graduate. It is so entwined with that film that people probably mistake Anne Bancroft’s character’s name for the actual name of the movie.

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Imported from. . .Canada

Motown MuseumWhen Chrysler busted out with the 2011 Super Bowl ad with Eminem, which gave rise to the whole “Imported from Detroit” theme, a theme that was green-lighted by Olivier Francois, a Parisian-born executive of Fiat, an Italian company (that owns Chrysler), people in Detroit at large got a good feeling. Yes, the people are tough and gritty, smooth and stylish. The car in question in the spot (a Chrysler 200) isn’t exactly the a car likely to make any publication’s Ten Best List, but as it is the only car that Chrysler produced in the Detroit Metro at the time (it put the Dodge Viper back into production in the city earlier this month, and it actually has built the Jeep Grand Cherokee in the D for the past several years), they had to go with what they had.

Why not the Chrysler 300, the sedan that was immediately popular with golfers and gangstas alike when it appeared as a model year 2005 vehicle?

Because that car is built in Canada.

Chrysler is now beating Detroit like Meg White the drums.  Unless it is an ad for Jeep, chances are there is something airing from the company that goes directly back to that “Born of Fire” Super Bowl ad.

It has just launched the 2013 Chrysler 300 Motown Edition.

The commercial for the car shows Motown founder and Detroit native Berry Gordy sitting in the backseat of the car. . .in front of the Motown Museum on West Grand Boulevard. If you’ve ever been to the Motown Museum or on West Grand Boulevard, you know that the word “grand” isn’t used in a particularly descriptive way.

And while Gordy established Motown in Detroit in 1960, he moved it to Los Angeles in 1972.

Thanks, Berry.

And while the 2013 Chrysler 300 Motown Edition moves Gordy through the streets of Detroit, it deposits him in New York City, in front of the Lunt Fontanne Theatre, where “Motown: The Musical” will be opening in March.

He may have forgotten that there is the Fisher Theater literally down the street from the Motown Museum. They stage Broadway shows there, too. It’s not Broadway. But it is Detroit.

The car is all chromed up. Perhaps the best part of it is that the limited-edition sedan’s audio system comes with 100 Motown tracks, but then those are accessible without having to put out an MSRP of $32,995.

“We are Motown and this is what we do,” Gordy says at the end of the spot for the car.

What? Move out of the D?


That Burning, Yearning Feeling

We are pleased to introduce a new feature from guest contributor, Kenan Hebert, who first caught our attention with his essay about the Wilco movie. This one’s even better. – ed.

1964. Martha Reeves’ voice bubbles up through unmentionable cracks, oozing with an indescribable, almost indecent sound. It’s soul, but it’s something else, too – soul with the gospel taken out. It’s pure sex, the most temporal of sounds, the sound not of a maven or a diva, but of a hot-blooded American girl, too high-pitched and raw for a Christian choir, but too powerful to be left in a shower. And while she did not write the songs that gave her voice form, neither would the songs have had it without her. Let’s listen.

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