The Sound & Style Of Early Motown

Last night, PBS aired Motown: The Definitive Performances, which was sort of like a glorified infomercial to purchase the Motown box set, but it was also packed with a number of rarely seen early performances from the label's artists.

Mid-'60s is probably my favorite era, music and style-wise, as it was pre-hippie and clean-cut, but with eyeliner thick enough to give it a trashy edge. Seriously, no wonder why Diana Ross' eyes are so wide now. Her eyelids probably gained some serious muscles from having to support all that makeup and the false lashes.

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I wish that I could pull off wigs as a fashion statement. Unfortunately, in these modern times, when a white girl tries to wear a hairpiece on a day that's not October 31, she has to make up a lie about having cancer or something. I love how the Supremes' wigs got so out of control that it instantly made them look drunk.

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Illustration for article titled The Sound  Style Of Early Motown

Tammi Terrell was the cutest.


But the person I was most captivated by in the special was David Ruffin of the Temptations. I hadn't realized how totally awesome his look was.

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Illustration for article titled The Sound  Style Of Early Motown
Illustration for article titled The Sound  Style Of Early Motown
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And I love how he would touch his glasses as a gesture during his songs.

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DISCUSSION

We talked extensively about Motown in my History of Rock class last semester (which, contrary to popular belief, was actually very challenging) and I have a completely different view of it as of late...

Berry Gordy was most interested in money and accomplished monetary success by establishing the "polished sound" of Motown. He actually sent many of his artists to a finishing school so they might better appeal to white audiences. (In my opinion, this came at the expense of certain creativity from people like Marvin Gaye, who Gordy didn't allow much production because he sounded too black)

Anyway... Interesting stuff, just thought I'd share.