Reviews of Motown Videos,
DVDs, Movies, and TV -
Ain't Nothing Like the Reel Thing

As documents or recreations of classic performances and intriguing lives, Motown videos, DVDs, or big-screen experiences can bring the power of that era to those who only know it through three-minute tunes.

I'd spent years listening to soul and Motown oldies stations without understanding the genre's all-encompassing dazzle.

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

Directed by Don Mischer, 1983

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.

It's hard to think of Motown songs as fossils after those parts. Stevie Wonder's medley, Marvin Gaye's thoughtful ramblings at the keyboard (the first time I ever heard him speak), the Jackson 5 reunion, and brother Michael's mind-boggling moonwalk help us look forward to music's future, not to mention the rest of the program.

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,
DVDs, Movies, and TV

Does the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown do the Funk Brothers justice? Read my video and DVD review here.

Is the miniseries The Temptations any good? Click here for my review.

How about The Jacksons: An American Dream? I review that Jackson 5 TV-movie here.

Although there's no Supremes movie per se, Dreamgirls might give you your cinematic girl-group fix. My review of the film is here.

The Five Heartbeats may also remind you of real soul groups, namely the Dells or the Temptations. Another review right here.

Search here for more Motown movie/TV reviews and resources.

Motown videos and DVDs, movies and TV programs show Motown oldies artists. Let me tell you about them from my homepage o' bios!

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