She Said has always been a fan of Stax Records, the gritty Southern label started by a white brother-sister team in a movie theater in Memphis. Something about Stax' organic sound and integrated musical influences (this is the same city that gave us Sun Records) had always felt so raw and real. Motown, on the other hand, always seemed so cleverly manipulated to appeal to white audiences, contrived almost, and lacking the magnetism and je ne sais quoi
that artists like Booker T. and the MGs and Arthur Conley had down in Memphis.
Of particular ire to She Said was the prissy, precious, frail-looking Diana Ross, who was famously made to attend etiquette school by Barry Gordy. (All the Motown artists, most of whom came from the ghetto, were groomed and choreographed to better appeal to white audiences.) Choreography is one thing - one awesome thing, as She Said will get to in a moment - but just look at Ross' overwrought facial expressions
in this video. It's too fake!
However, in 2008, while on a European Vacation
, She Said visited the Victoria & Albert Museum
, dedicated to the decorative arts and design, in London. The purpose of the visit was to view the V&A's extensive collection of Midcentury housewares and clothing
, but the museum was featuring a special exhibit of personal items of Mary Wilson
, including nearly her entire wardrobe during her affiliation with The Supremes.
It was fascinating
. To stand there and see video of the girls performing, and then to see the actual dresses they performed in right next to me; to see pictures of the girls in Detroit before they became internationally famous. All the while, The Supremes' hits blasted from a speaker system. The whole experience gave She Said a newfound love for the contrived band she used to shun. After all, how can you not get caught up in the catchiness of "Where Did Our Love Go"
The thing about Motown is that the system worked. In the years that Stax was declaring bankruptcy, Motown was grooming perhaps its biggest star of all time, the youngest brother of the Jackson 5. So, on the anniversary of the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever
television special She Said looks back at some of her favorite songs from Motor City.
The Temptations, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg:"
Here comes the choreography. This remains not just one of She Said's favorite Motown songs, but also one of her favorite songs of all time. Like "This Magic Moment," there's something to be said for a song that endure cover after cover. Here's The Stones doing their version in 1974
The Four Tops, "Baby I Need Your Lovin':
Anyone who knows She Said in real life knows about her undying love for Johnny Rivers, in part thanks to his amazing cover of this Four Tops song
. Rivers would also cover another Motown song, The Miracles' "Tracks of My Tears." This has to be one of the most quietly wistful songs ever written. The backing vocals are particularly haunting, like a Greek chorus.