Granted, you don't need to watch music shows to enjoy or "get" the songs.
However, if you can't make it to live concerts or Motown revues, or want to see the artists as they once were, I recommend the efforts below. (Note: These movies and TV specials are not necessarily by Motown, but relate to Motown singers and history.)
Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever
I've only come across videos, not DVDs, of this event. Good--no, great enough!
A very '80s-fashioned "Dancing in the Street" intro seriously dates the special. The good news: The true oldies seem timeless by comparison!
This Motown 25th anniversary and charity show does have history on the mind. Vintage photos and performance clips appear in sync to the beat (nice job, editors). Dick Clark of his Caravan of Stars and American Bandstand gives a short history of black pop and its eventual crossover success.
My favorite retrospective comes from host Richard Pryor. His fairytale version of the company history adorably(!) ribs Berry Gordy and amusingly plays on the company's colorful group names.
Play. Yes, that's what Holland-Dozier-Holland, Norman Whitfield, and other songwriters are up to with their 'round-the-piano banter. The Four Tops and Temptations take it to another level during their outstanding, high-spirited song battle. The fun and the affection are infectious.
Meanwhile, it's great to see later successes like the Commodores and Lionel Richie. It's interesting to see then-new stars like DeBarge and High Inergy. It's bizarre to see a country singer represent the Mel-O-Dy label and Adam Ant cover a Supremes song. If we can call any Motown videos inclusive, it's this one!
To a point. Many significant artists get the shaft. Martha Reeves, Mary Wells, and Junior Walker get to sing about two bars of one hit each, then off the spotlight goes. How embarrassing. Presenters and taped segments constantly refer to Motown's special kind of music, but never credit the Funk Brothers. So exasperating.
I'm not the only one who feels a tumult inside! The Motown 25 TV broadcast and videos cut out several hostile moments between Diana Ross and Supremes Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong. Knowing that some key Motowners didn't even get invited also undermines the love fest.
Is the celebration that we do get to see warm, sweet, droll, and entertaining? You bet. It's a tribute to all--well, many things Motown that's definitely worth experiencing, however much the company family had splintered by then.
For VHS copies of this milestone program, click here.
More Reviews of Motown Videos,