Van Dyke, Earl

** This is just a short biographical summary – for the full story, check out this artist’s reviews! **

The contribution of keyboardist and bandleader Earl Van Dyke, the immortal “Chunk of Funk”, to the Motown Sound couldn’t have been much more significant if he’d physically built the studio; he was the glue that kept the in-house band the Funk Brothers together, the unspoken leader of the group, the essential conduit between songwriters, producers and musicians.

For whatever reason, when Motown decided to release some instrumental singles by the house musicians, Earl’s was the headlining name on the marquee; under the Van Dyke brand, Motown slated no less than six singles for the band in the mid-Sixties, but most of these singles were simple overdubs of existing Motown hits, Earl’s organ simply replacing the lead vocal on the pre-recorded band track. Not exactly the way for Motown to make good on its promise to let the musicians blow off steam, paying them back for countless hours of studio toil cutting R&B-pop crossover material.

Motown singling Earl out for solo credit on what are obviously group performances, many of which don’t feature his signature organ and piano work as their main draw, has always seemed strange (Van Dyke himself, no shrinking violet but somewhat embarrassed by the unwarranted and unwanted publicity, graciously never underplayed the fact these were group records); nonetheless, as a credited lead artist on these singles, there are few as deserving as Van Dyke.

When the Funk Brothers fell apart at the start of the 1970s during Motown’s move to Los Angeles, Earl initially stayed behind in Detroit looking for work; he carved out a decent living, but was never able to hit the same artistic heights again. He passed away in 1992 at the age of 62.

Review Archive: Earl VAN DYKE (6 items)

We have 6 reviews for Earl Van Dyke (as the credited lead artist) currently available here on Motown Junkies – click the link above to see our archive for more details.


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