In 1959, Berry Gordy gathered the best musicians from Detroit's thriving jazz and blues scene to begin cutting songs for his new record company. Over a fourteen year period they were the heartbeat on "My Girl," "Bernadette," I Was Made to Love Her," and every other hit from Motown's Detroit era. By the end of their phenomenal run, this unheralded group of musicians had played on more number ones hits than the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Elvis and the Beatles combined - which makes them the greatest hit machine in the history of popular music. They called themselves the Funk Brothers. Forty-one years after they played their first note an a Motown record and three decades since they were all together, the Funk Brothers reunited back in Detroit to play their music and tell their unforgettable story. The Funk Brothers story is told through archival footage and still photos, narration, interviews, re-creation scenes, 20 Motown master tracks, and twelve new live performances of Motown classics with the Funk Brothers backing up Chaka Kahn, Ben Harper, Bootsy Collins, Montel Jordan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, and Gerald Levert.
"Forty-one years after they played their first note on a Motown record and three decades since they were all together, the Funk Brothers reunited in Detroit to play their music and tell their story," reads a title early in the director Paul Justman's documentary. It is a simple premise that this movie more than lives up to, falling back on the serene power of the Funk Brothers, the squadron of elite musicians heard laying down the rhythm — and the law — on Motown's greatest hits. This salute to the literally unsung and underrecognized studio heroes of Motown is so good because it is one of those rare documentaries that combine information with smashing entertainment. And it is one of the few nonfiction films that will have you walking out humming the score, if you're not running to the nearest store to buy Motown CD's. — Elvis Mitchell
2002-11-15 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of Standing in the Shadows of Motown