My Last Tears: Honey Cone, 1970

It’s wonderful to see modern takes of old school songs, especially when they’re done well, and especially if there is a new twist  on it. Inspired by Motown’s Martha and the Vandellas as well as The Marvelettes, Honey Cone was formed in 1969 as a trio of singers who were in various singing and gospel…

True Lovin’ Every Time: The Temptations, 1966

Candor can often be sweet, but also heart-wrenching, even humorously so. Such is the case with another number one hit by the Temptations. Released in 1966 by Motown Records, Beauty is Only Skin Deep went number 3 on the pop charts and number 1 on the R&B charts. It was a smash hit that had a…

Ready to change: Musiq Soulchild, 2011

When I feature an artist for the first time, I generally like to start with the artist’s iconic or most popular hit. But today will be a day of changes. Musiq Soulchild is a neo-soul, soul, and R&B artist, best known for R&B ballads like Love from his debut album Aijuswanaseing (2000) and Dontchange from his second album Juslisen (2002),…

Better Than the Rest: Raphael Saadiq, 2008

One of my favorite contemporary artists is Raphael Saadiq (born Charles Ray Wiggins; went by Raphael Wiggins for a short time).  Unlike some other contemporary artists we have profiled, Raphael differs in his age and experience.  He has been in the industry for some time with a musicality that spans the genres and reaches many…

All I’m Askin’: Aretha Franklin, 1967

Singers have been “covering” other artists’ songs for generations now. A cover song, or often colloquially simply, “cover,” is a song that has already been released by a different artist, but has been renewed and reinvented — or, “covered” — by a different artist. Historically and practically, cover songs offer practice and inspiration to developing artists, while also — at…

Got Me Spinnin’: STAX Records, Memphis, TN

We are of course dedicated to capturing the people and spirits who give birth to the sounds we hear: the singers and instrumentalists. They, after all, embody the very musicality we admire and ultimately cling to, even though people in other positions — engineers, producers, and writers — play critical roles too. Yet, these artists and their…

little bit louder: Stevie Wonder, 1962

This child prodigy is no stranger to the big lights. He looked up to the great Ray Charles and in fact — in working with the Motown producers — released his first ever album as one dedicated to “Uncle Ray.” Born Stevland Hardaway Morris, he gained his stage name from one of the producers who…

fun fact!

The genius of Gordy and Hitsville USA can be found in something so unimaginative: recycling songs. Gaye and Terrell released their hit Ain’t No Mountain High Enough in 1967 and won a Grammy with it. Three years later, Diana Ross and the Supremes — of the same record label — would release their own version…

fun fact!

At one point, due to the divisiveness of group performance, two distinct and separate Temptations bands were touring through the U.S.A. at the same time.

By My Side: The Temptations, 1966

Drawn from the tradition of doo-wop groups of the fifties, The Temptations proved one of the most successful of group artists of all time, and a treasure for Berry Gordy’s Motown Records (also known as “Hitsville USA” in contrast to Stax in Memphis which was known as “Soulsville USA”). While known for their musical versatility with five…