One of the most influential music labels in history was honoured on Sunday night, 21 April, during the television special, Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration, on CBS.
Hosted by Cedric the Entertainer and Motown pioneer Smokey Robinson, the tribute concert gathered the best of Motown talent and the artists inspired by them. The two-hour special, which was recorded just before the Grammy Awards at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, featured sensational performances from artists across eras and genres.
To mark Motown’s 60th anniversary and six decades of unparalleled excellence, all of the surviving artists who helped build the label’s legacy to what it is today were on hand to perform their hits.
Diana Ross performed a medley of her cinematic hits from the theme to the 1975 film she starred in, Mahogany, “Good Morning Heartache” from her turn as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues and personally serenaded label founder Barry Gordy with a rendition of “My Man,” while saying, “Thank you for all you have done for my life. You are a gift to all of us”.
Mr Gordy had a few words himself, telling the audience how Motown “brought people together who didn’t realise they had so much in common,” and his original vision to make “music for all people”.
Smokey took breaks from hosting duties to do a career-spanning mini-set from “The Tears Of A Clown” by the Miracles and was joined by a cappella sensations Pentatonix for a rendition of “Shop Around.”
Along with other Motown icons such as Stevie Wonder, Thelma Houston, Martha Reeves, Valerie Simpson and all members of songwriting team Holland–Dozier–Holland in attendance, the show also featured exciting performances by today’s artists who were inspired by Motown.
R&B superstar John Legend brought the house down with his cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me,” while Ciara paid tribute to the king of punk-funk, Rick James decked out in his signature beaded braids and a sequined catsuit to perform “Superfreak.”
J.Lo reprised her Motown medley tribute from the Grammy Awards and the breakout stars of this year’s Grammys, Chloe x Halle, did the Supremes right on “Please Mr Postman.” Pop powerhouse Tori Kelly channelled Tammi Terrell on “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing,” while Fantasia honoured the artist often called “The First Lady of Motown,” covering Mary Wells’ “My Guy.”
To close out the show, it had to be none other than Stevie Wonder, who played almost a mini-concert for the grand finale. Highlights of the performance included renditions of “Master Blaster (Jammin),” “My Cherie Amour” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.”