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The World of Soul Music Loses Its Queen

The world of soul music has lost its undisputed queen. From the moment she stepped up on the altar of her father’s church and began singing, everyone knew they were in the presence of a future legend. Despite her young age, Aretha could sing and she would attract churchgoers from all around to hear her. That she was so young was amazing, but certainly her audiences must have realized that bigger things lay ahead for her. Little Aretha taught herself how to play the piano and amazed everyone around her, including motherly figure Mahalia Jackson, who was a gospel star herself. Her father began to see that his daughter could do more with her voice than just attract people to hear about the Lord- she could use her god given gift to sing to the world. Her father avoided the obvious record company- Motown- as he felt his daughter would get lost among all the other African-American acts signed there. Certainly Columbia Records could advance his daughter’s career; she’d be one of their few “r

Holiday Music Week: A Motown Christmas

Possibly the greatest Christmas album ever released, A Motown Christmas was a package album originally released in 1973 as a 2 LP set. At the time, the record company sought to take advantage of its deep catalog by reissuing existing recordings and creating greatest hit albums. Just about every Motown act had recorded Christmas singles and albums, so the staff working on this compilation had numerous versions of each song to choose from and they chose wisely. We hear Stevie Wonder’s soulful, yet reverent version of Ave Maria, the Jackson 5ive’s youthful Frosty the Snowman and the amazing version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by the Temptations. There were also surprising finds like One Little Christmas Tree, stripped of elaborate orchestration and sung by Stevie Wonder. The arrangements used on these versions would become THE soul arrangements used when these standards were performed, even to this day. It might not be as famous as Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You,  but it wa

“Race Music” - Calling Out Around The World

Berry Gordy had a Dream- to bring sweet soul music to the world. He knew he had a tough job ahead of him; there were many who wanted to see him fail, if only because of their prejudices. As a result, Berry expected much of the performers he turned into superstars. Performers had to take charm classes and comport themselves well. Berry knew that the world would be harsh on his talent because some people would be looking for them to fail. As the motto on the albums stated- “It’s what’s in the grooves that counts.” By focusing on seemingly unrelated things, Mr. Gordy made sure that audiences paid attention to the music- and not “Race”. It certainly wasn’t a coincidence that Billboard retired the term “Race Music” from its charts after the rise of Motown. Soul and rhythm & blues- the Motown Sound- would conquer the world.