(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Motown

“I’m always flattered and honored when people cover my music or sing my songs, no matter where it is”*…


Our most beloved songs have a longer history than we might think. They might exist in hundreds of alternative versions created by other artists in distant decades. Those versions can differ in character and style and reach completely different audiences.

We looked closely at the 50 most popular cover songs as well as the original works. Galaxy of Covers is the result of this analysis and allows you to explore the evolution from idea to recording.

The panorama view shows the 50 top songs as individual planetary systems with the original work as the sun. Each planet represents a version of the song and it’s appearance indicates characteristics including genre, popularity, tempo, valence, energy, and speechiness. The radius of its orbit around the sun shows the years between the publication dates. This view allows you to compare the structure and density of the constellation of different songs from a high-level perspective.

The detail view [as above] lists the versions of one song in cross section. The characteristics and positioning of the planets is consistent with the panorama. This view allows you to compare different versions of the same song individually…

From Interactive Things, a music lover’s delight: “Galaxy of Covers.”

* Amos Lee


As we remark on the sincerest from of flattery, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that a new group released it’s first single, “Got a Job”– a answer to to the hit “Get A Job” by the Silhouettes– and so it was that The Miracles (AKA Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) were introduced to the world.  Berry Gordy had produced the tune, which netted the group and their producer $3.19.  At Robinson’s urging, Gordy formed his own label, Tamla (the forerunner to Motown)… and the rest is history.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 19, 2016 at 1:01 am

You are (how you say) what you eat…


Bert Vaux, now at Cambridge University, created The Dialect Survey while teaching at Harvard.  Dr. Vaux and his colleagues asked scores of North Americans to pronounce several dozen common English words and phrases, recoded their pronunciations, and mapped the results– as for “pecan,” above.  The full list is at The Dialect Survey; each example clicks through to a set of maps like this one.


As we mind our p’s and q’s, we might spare a thought for an extraordinary enunciator, Tammi Terrell; she died, aged 24, on this date in  1970.  Born Thomasina Winifred Montgomery, Terrell had begun performing at age 14, recording for Sceptre Records, then for James Brown’s Try Me label, before signing with Motown in 1965.  After two years as a solo artist, Berry Gordy teamed her with Marvin Gaye.  Their first release, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” was recorded by each separately, then mixed by Motown… and became a solid hit.  Their follow-ups, “Your Precious Love” and “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You” also charted Top Ten.

Terrell reportedly had a tempestuous love life (including relationships with Brown and The Temptation’s David Ruffin); but her relationship with Gaye, while extraordinarily close, was platonic (friends and colleagues Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson characterized it as “sibling-like”).  In October 1967, just six months after the release of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Terrell collapsed onstage during a performance at Hampton-Sydney College.  Motown kept the incident quiet– and the duo on the road.  Two-and-a-half years later, on this date in 1970, she died of complications from the malignant brain tumor that had caused her 1967 collapse.  Following Terrell’s death, Gaye refrained from live performance for three years; his 1971 album What’s Going On– an introspective, mature masterpiece– was in part a reaction to her passing.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 16, 2013 at 1:01 am

(Probably NSFW) Oh, my God, Becky, look…

18 years ago last summer, a rap artist named Sir Mix-a-Lot hit the top of the pop charts with “Baby Got Back.”  The single finished the year at #2 on the annual chart, won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, and has been ranked by VH-1 as the sixth-greatest song of the 1990s and one of the 20 best hip hop songs of all time…

It should come as no surprise that a tune so impactful has spawned any number of covers.  Now, thanks to the good folks at 10 Zen Monkeys, readers can take a quick tour of the mash-ups, re-mixes, and “alternative treatments” that have kept the dream alive.  Your correspondent’s personal favorite: this rendition by Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine

See the others at 10 Zen Monkeys…  Baby Got Legs.

As we gently tap our tuning forks, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that the Temptations scored their fourth and final #1 hit when “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100.  In the course of their storied career, the Temptations had 38 Top 40 hits (not just more than any other Motown Records artist/act, but more than any American pop group ever), won three Grammys, and sold tens of millions of records.

The Temptations during their psychedelic period of the late 1960s/early 1970s. Left to right: Eddie Kendricks, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, and Dennis Edwards




source: BBG

Michael Jackson’s legacy has yet to settle.  There are the songs, of course– from the crystal-shattering Motown days of the Jackson Five to the Quincy Jones era– and there’s the Beatles Song Catalogue (rumored to have been willed to Sir Paul…  though Michael’s creditors may have some issue with that); and then, of course, there’s the lunacy…  But it may be that Michael will be best remembered as an inventor.  To wit, U..S. Patent 5255452, the abstract of which reads:

A system for allowing a shoe wearer to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity by virtue of wearing a specially designed pair of shoes which will engage with a hitch member movably projectable through a stage surface. The shoes have a specially designed heel slot which can be detachably engaged with the hitch member by simply sliding the shoe wearer’s foot forward, thereby engaging with the hitch member.

And lest the reader wonder at the utility of such a creation, consider “Smooth Criminal” and its signature dance routine:

As we cant at 45 degrees, we might celebrate the birthdays of an entertainment pioneer of an earlier era, Melvin “Mel” Kaminsky– better known by his stage name, Mel Brooks.  He was born on this date in 1926.  Brooks is a member of the select fraternity of entertainers who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. And while of his own work he observed, “my movies rise below vulgarity,” three of his films (Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Young Frankenstein) rank in the Top 20 on the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Comedy Films of All Time.

“How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?”

– Max Bialystock, The Producers

Mel Brooks

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