Standing in the Shadows of Motown Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
Is there anyone within range of a radio tower who hasn’t tapped their feet to a classic Motown tune? Heard It Through the Grapevine, Heatwave, My Girl-the list seems endless. Hit after hit was created in the least likely of places-a renovated garage in the Motor City.
But who were the real Motown artists? If you’re about to say Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, or The Temptation you’ll only get half marks. The real question asked within this documentary, is “Who is playing all those instruments on My Girl?” The Temptations (and all those other Motown greats) were vocalists-few of the Motown headliners were musicians.
The answer is The Funk Brothers. Between 1959 and 1972, they were the unknown group of session musicians that strummed, beat, and even arranged those incredible harmonies and intricate guitar tracks that have become “The Motown Sound.” Unaccredited on any recordings, they were left behind when the company moved from Detroit to the west coast, to live out their lives in obscurity until now.
Author Alan Slutsky brought their story to light. His 1991 book was heralded by Rolling Stone magazine, and helped to convince Slutsky’s filmmaking friend Paul Justman that the subject was worthy of a major documentary project.
Interviewing members of the group over the past decade, Justman has created a musical documentary with a plot that rivals the best underdog drama. After years of being separated, the men are reunited in the tiny recording studio where musical history once took place on a weekly basis. Stories and anecdotes begin to pour out in between moments of musical ecstasy as we are treated to hearing The Funk Brothers play some of the biggest Motown hits in a concert venue recorded with the latest sound technology. Be prepared to turn up the home theater!
The more you get to know about this group of humble musician, the more you can’t help being amazed. Many of the tracks they played on were arranged in jam session fashion an hour before the actual take was recorded. As opposed to the intricate multi-track recording done today, this was true spontaneous creativity and answers the question of how these technically deficient records managed to have so much life.
The only concerns for sharing this long-overdue story with your family are the inclusion of a few mild profanities, talk of drug use and the devastating consequences it leads to, and a short segment discussing an exotic dancer (with a couple of still photographs showing her scantily clad body). If you have a lover of pop, rap, or good ‘ol rock-‘n-roll in your home, this would be a great lesson in helping young people understand the roots of the sounds they listen to today.Starring Funk Brothers. Running time: 110 minutes. Updated April 9, 2009
Standing in the Shadows of Motown
Rating & Content Info
Why is Standing in the Shadows of Motown rated PG? Standing in the Shadows of Motown is rated PG by the MPAA
Ever wonder what made that Motown sound so distinctive? This documentary looks at the The Funk Brothers, a group of session musicians who gave birth to many hit songs and artists careers, but who somehow never managed to receive any of the fame or recognition they deserved. If you like to listen to Motown, or think you know anything about popular music, you owe it to these guys to hear their story.
Musicians recount an experience about a miserly club owner who put a gun on the table (as a subliminal threat) while negotiating their wages; in turn each of them in turn also pulled out guns and placed them on the table. A man pretends to be a mortician, and scares unwanted visitors away by offering to show them how he uses his saw and bone-crusher tool. Documentary contains some archival footage of anti- war demonstrations, riot police, and solders (some who are wounded).
Sexual Content: B
Still pictures of a scantily dressed exotic dancer known as Lottie the Body are shown. A story about a drummer mentions him looking at a nudie magazine instead of sheet music.
At least: 11 mild and 2 moderate profanities, as well as 3 terms of Deity used as expletives.
Alcohol / Drug Use: B-
Alcohol and drug addiction are mentioned. A couple of the band members deaths are attributed to substance abuse. Cigarette smoking is seen on a couple of occasions.
On a car trip, a man who purposely tries to annoy his friends by eating rancid pig feet, gets dropped off on the side of the road on a very cold winter night. The lyrics to a song talk about dysfunctional families and life situations, as well as spending time in jail.
Page last updated April 9, 2009
Standing in the Shadows of Motown Parents' Guide
Although The Funk Brothers had an opportunity to see their music become successful, they themselves received little recognition. How important is fame? Why is validation so important to our sense of self-worth?
How far has Motown’s influence been felt? (Consider the fields of music, racial discrimination, and politics.)
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