** This is just a short biographical summary – for the full story, check out this artist’s reviews! **
The Motown house band, the Funk Brothers, are better-known now than they ever were in their heyday, thanks to the 2003 documentary film Standing in the Shadows of Motown which finally gave some of the musicians their due recognition, albeit not during enough of their lifetimes.
A rag-tag collection of fearsomely talented musicians, primarily with a jazz background, the names of the men whose music appeared on not hundreds but thousands of Motown recordings during the Sixties and early Seventies have become well-known among fans: Earl Van Dyke, Benny Benjamin, Pistol Allen, Uriel Jones, James Jamerson, Bob Babbitt, Robert White, Joe Messina, Eddie Willis, Jack Brokensha, Paul Riser, Hank Cosby, Jack Ashford, Joe Hunter, Bongo Brown, Johnny Griffith, Dennis Coffey and many, many more, the hands that quite literally built Motown. But these names were deliberately not publicised by Motown at the time, for a variety of reasons, some of them sensible, some of them extremely dubious.
The short-lived Workshop Jazz subsidiary label allowed Motown to offer several musicians their own jazz LPs as artists, but once the label closed down in 1964, outlets for musical expression were few and far between and Motown had no commercial interest in releasing low-margin instrumental jazz music. Band leader Earl Van Dyke was eventually given top billing as an artist, but the singles released under the name of Earl and the “Soul Brothers” for the most part bore little resemblance to the kind of jazz and blues most of the musicians wanted to be cutting.
The Funk Brothers melted away as a working band in the early Seventies following Motown’s wholesale relocation to California, and many of the key players – Benjamin, Jamerson, White, and Van Dyke himself – died before their achievements were properly recognised – but surviving members have continued to play together since the release of Standing in the Shadows of Motown.
Review Archive: The FUNK BROTHERS (12 items)
We have 12 reviews for the Funk Brothers (in various guises, as lead artists) currently available here on Motown Junkies – click the link above to see our archive for more details.