Detroit On Film #3: Standing In The Shadows Of Motown

Standing In The Shadows of Motown is one of the best music documentaries I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. The film is a timeless one that captures the essence of Detroit during a period when artistry was thriving and the music scene was one of the best in the world. No one could match the sounds coming out of Berry Gordy Jr's studio and no player could emulate what the Funk Brothers were laying down on the Motown recordings. Standing In The Shadows of Motown is a great movie that any musician can appreciate, especially those of us from Detroit.

This Detroit based documentary chronicles the early days of the Motown back up band, The Funk Brothers and their long history as one of the most respected groups of musicians to ever hit the industry. As the film highlights the back story of the band and their original sound, it also gives a personalized look at how dedicated each of these individuals were in creating a classic sound known across the world. While they've been imitated, no one can match the soulful music of The Funk Brothers.

The film is a moving portrait of the evolving sound of music and how life as a musician can be rewarding but equally as disappointing. The Funk Brothers weren't credited with recording any of the classic tracks until 1971. Until then, Motown did not list any musician credits and session players were paid very little for their time and skill. The Funk Brothers played on more hits than Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined but were only paid by the day as session players. Sad.

If you're a fan of Motown and need a little brush up on your music history, see this movie. It perfectly blends The Funk Brothers story with live performance footage and archived recordings. I've seen the film about 5 times now. With each viewing, I notice something new and always come away with a feeling of relevance for these musicians that truly defined an era and a sound in Detroit based music.

-Review by Chris George