The four time Tony nominated musical Motown the Musical is heading for the West End and it is set to be a huge hit. Taking the Shaftsbury Theatre back in time from the 11th of February, the musical is all about the creation of Motown music and how it evolved over the years because of one particular man.
Berry Gordy founded the Motown record label Motown Record Corporation in April 1959 and that was the moment in which Motown was born. After building his company and gathering together numerous music professionals and the flawlessly famous house band the Funk Brothers, the record label leapt from success to success.
“Money (That’s What I Want)” was the first hit record for Gordy’s enterprise. It broke through the music industry providing a new sound and America’s reaction was sensational. It was merely the start of an explosion of Motown hits.
The musical itself features over 60 songs from iconic Motown artists, therefore ahead of the shows arrival in February I decided to look back and explore the world of Motown and familiarise myself with the classic hits. I actually surprised myself with how many songs I recognised upon listening to them, whether it is because of how huge and classic they are or because of the influence Motown has had on the music industry in the recent years.
The first song that springs to mind is the classic Jackson 5 tune “ABC” which features in the recent hit Easy Love by Sigala.
The Jackson 5 were the epitome of Motown, most importantly they were the first recording act to have their first four singles reach number 1 on the Billboard charts “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There”.
Everyone is familiar with the Jackson 5 but Sigala’s hit song brings back the timeless and soulful essence of Motown mixed with a fresh summer vibe that fits perfectly into the pop charts.
When Motown is mentioned most people instantly think of the Jackson 5, however most of the music featured in the musical is instantly recognisable and when I researched into it many songs brought back brilliant memories of the music my parents always used to play or songs that are still constantly on the radio.
The Supremes feature heavily in Motown The Musical and Where Did Our Love Go is a song I absolutely adore. It was their breakthrough song that threw them into the charts and catapulted their incredible career. They also were a huge step forward in terms of race and feminism, they were the first female black performers embracing a more feminine image. They were classy, feminine and created a whole new image for black girl bands. Focusing on femininity and not imitating male vocal styles and qualities, they represented women in a new and fresh way, breaking public perception of black women lacking class and being uncivilised.
Where Did Our Love Go is a song that I really resonate with because it’s highly relatable and it’s a very meaningful song yet it is counteracted by the upbeat music which everyone can sing and dance along to.
Motown Men | Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson
Stevie Wonder is a Motown legend, with more than 30 U.S top ten hits and 25 Grammy awards, it’s hard to put his success into words. His music speaks for itself, classic hits such as Superstition, I Just Called To Say I Love You, Sir Duke and Signed Sealed Delivered, I’m Yours.
Aged just 11, Stevie Wonder was signed with Berry Gordy. During the 60’s he evolved from child progidy to worldwide superstar.
Similarly Smokey Robinson, leading man of the Motown group The Miracles, impressed Gordy with his stunning vocals yet Gordy was even more intrigued by his ambitious songwriting. In addition to the chart toppers he wrote for The Miracles, he also wrote top hits for all the famous Motown bands and singers including The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “My Girl,” “Get Ready,” “You Beat Me to the Punch,” “Don’t Mess with Bill,” and “My Guy”.
He then sparked a hugely successful solo career, continuing to produce number ones. He also remained Vice President of Motown records alongside Berry Gordy, he is most likely the biggest influencer in terms of the Motown movement.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
This song will never get old, no matter how much time goes by. Originally recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967. Then in 1970 front woman of The Supremes, Diana Ross recorded it and it went crazy, it was her first solo number one hit and it was even nominated for a Grammy.
Still to this day it gets covered by international popstars around the globe, from Whitney Houston to Kelly Rowland, Lionel Richie and even JLO. It is a classic and uplifting song that is used in hundreds of movies and TV shows making it instantly recognisable.
Until you actually think about it, Motown was such a massive influence in terms of the music industry over the decades and it has impacted upon many artists in the industry today.
It is a show about music but most importantly it is a show about a movement. Taking the audience back through the story of Motown. Packed full of passionate, soulful music and feel good, electric choreography.
Opening February 11th, head down to the Shaftesbury Theatre to experience a show full of spectacular song and dance and the eye opening history of America’s changing attitudes toward race in the 1960’s.
Watch the trailer below and check out the official Motown The Musical website here.
Access a seat plan here to find the most suitable seats!