The music world is vast and strange. For every stadium-filling, gold-record-making musical superstar, there are dozens of talented also-rans whose names mean nothing to the average fan. These magnificent musicians spend their lives backing up the big names, doing world-class session work, and always playing in the background.
Among these unsung heroes is a band of musicians who were a major force behind the legendary Motown sound, a group of Detroit-based players who called themselves the Funk Brothers.
Now, they may have finally won their place in the spotlight.
Standing in the Shadows of Motown, based on the book of the same name by Allan Slutsky, is an eye-opening new documentary financed by Paul Elliott and David Scott, a couple of Sonoma County telecom engineers who helped buy and save Petaluma’s Phoenix Theatre two years ago. “The general public doesn’t have a clue who these guys are,” Elliott says. “But they are a significant piece of the Motown story.”
Based on early raves from those who’ve seen it, this film just might become a funky brother to the Buena Vista Social Club. Directed by Paul Justman, Standing in the Shadows of Motown includes moving and sometimes hilarious interviews with the surviving Funks, as well as some smokin’ footage from the Funk Brothers reunion concerts that took place in Detroit last winter, with the Funk Brothers backing up such modern artists as Joan Osborne, Chaka Khan, Ben Harper, Montell Jordan, and Bootsy Collins.
All the film needs now is a distributor. Then, finally, the secret of Motown will be revealed. Says Elliott, “The response we’ve had leads me to believe that the general public will find the Funk Brothers as important and as fascinating as we do.”
For more information on Standing in the Shadows of Motown, check the website at www.valismusic.com.
From the November 29-December 5, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.