FOLLOW-UP: …I Want To Sing With the Funk Brothers!

Like a wish inscribed on a paper, slipped into a bottle and thrown into the sea, my little story about the Funk Brothers was picked up on another shore and taken to heart…I had to share it with you all.

With the Sturm und Drang that punctuates too much in the world today, it’s sometimes hard to focus on the brighter, more uplifting, elements of life; those moments that remind you of good people, the notion that someone’s paying attention, the simple hope that a little dream long held might still, inexplicably and unexpectedly, come true. Given that systemic cynicism that attempts to hijack our time and ponderings, I wanted to post this addendum as a reminder that moments of thrill and surprise can happen from time to time.

If you haven’t already read the original story, please do and then come back to this…it will make much more sense that way: Enough With Politics… I Want To Sing With the Funk Brothers!

Hummm-hum-humm (I’m humming as you get caught up with the story…but it is a Motown song I’m humming.).

OK, done? Great. So anyway, I wrote the story mainly because, as noted, I’m inspired by these guys and the music they’ve made and any chance I get to throw a little attention their way, I’m gonna do it. I mean, just yesterday I was listening to “Standing in the Shadows of Love” as loudly as my Ipod and ears could handle and as I bopped down the street like an aging Lada Edmund Jr. in Nikes and a sweatband, I was again in full thrall of the funk that is the Funk Brothers (and tell me, besides my sister Mary, how many of you can say you remember Lada Edmund, Jr.?:)

I posted the story here on Rock+Paper+Music, as well as my column at the Huffington Post ( where, regardless of my wish that my own blog garnered such numbers, I clearly get more play. And lo and behold, about three days after it posted there – this story that not only extolled the Brothers but went on to declare my Bucket List wish to sing with them – came this message on the comment board:

Lorraine-my name is David Spero and I have managed the Funk Brothers for years. I promise that the next time they play the west coast you WILL sing with them! 

Meet us at the soundcheck for a trial run, and if you have ‘the goods’ we’ll invite you up at the show as well. 

Pause for a moment of awed silence.

You can imagine my reaction. Message in a bottle.

David Spero is a longtime and highly respected manager and all-around music entrepreneur who has worked with a staggering list of bands and musicians we’ve all listened to over the years. Still very active in the music world, his attachment to the Funk Brothers somehow led him to my article and his unexpected and smile-inducing comment. He later contacted me via my website and we were able to have a more in-depth conversation about my background, his, mutual people we knew, etc., and it was a delightful conversation left with this:

Lorraine…thanks for bringing the Funks to so many people’s attention! That alone gets you a shot on stage…but then when I realized you can really sing, well…let’s fill that bucket. We may be doing (a gig) in April in LA…when it’s finalized I’ll let you know. The gigs are far and few between, the guys all have health issues now, so this would be the best shot. It is so appreciated what you did for them…the guys loved it!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, made my day, week, month, year….knowing “the guys loved it.”  Seriously, it does not get much better than that.

So I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the potential LA gig in April will include my humble and appreciative participation but, for this moment, Mr. Spero’s reaching out made clear that life can still surprise me. That’s really nice to know. Almost as nice as picturing the venerable old Brothers reading my piece and smiling.

More later…(but I tell ya, I’m warming up those vocal cords!).
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Enough With Politics… I Want To Sing With the Funk Brothers!


I am politically oversaturated. I’ve written about it, read about it, thrown a sock at it when necessary (that would be TV after a minute or two of GOP debates), and I’m as sick of it as a regretful glutton following a hotdog eating contest (pull any pun out of there you’d like). It’s everywhere, in every conversation, the cover of every magazine, and so deeply embedded in the ethers that we’re never gonna get it out of our clothes. So I’m just not talking about it today, at least not in this article (don’t ask about my Facebook page!). I want to talk about something that actually inspires me:

The Funk Brothers

Don’t know who they are? Yeah…too many people don’t. Let’s see what we can do to remedy that.

I do a fairly vigorous power walk most days of the week and I typically have my Ipod going as a much needed pacer. I’ve put together a playlist for this purpose that is quite impressive; mostly dance, funk, and R&B, all with a wide range of pulsating, bass heavy beats to keep me going when I’d rather sit down and sip Snapple. Much of what comprises this playlist is Motown, glorious Motown; older, newer and all of it expertly and artfully played by the amazing Funk Brothers. Every time I listen to this collection that motivates me no matter how I’m feeling or what dusty thoughts are roiling through my head, I get a rush of appreciation and think to myself: “I love these guys!”…which is immediately followed by, “I want to sing with the Funk Brothers!” As I pound my way up the next incline I ponder all the many ways in which I can make that happen.

I have no clue. Really, none.

But regardless, this meditation keeps me going during the more trying portions of my walk and always leads to the impulse that follows: to shine a little light on these musicians who’ve kept me company since childhood and are still doing their part to move me in all the ways I can be moved, particularly as I dance-walk to their beat in a quest to stave off encroaching decrepitude (talk about longtime companions!).

So shine a little light I will.

There was an incredible and very illuminating documentary that came out about ten years ago called Standing in the Shadows of Motown, a film that told the story of the Funk Brothers, that cadre of expert, journeymen musicians who created the iconic and electrifying sound that became known as “the Motown Sound.” This from their website:

With the tumultuous sixties as a backdrop, Motown’s unsung heroes take the viewer on a compelling journey in time as they trace the evolution of The Motown Sound from its origins in Detroit to its demise in Los Angeles during the seventies. Through the eyes of the riveting characters who ruled Hitsville’s studio by day and the club scene of Detroit by night, we enter a world of unparalleled soul and emotion as the Funk Brothers revisit the sites of their musical roots, triumphs, and eventual heartbreak.

The first weekend the movie was out I sat in a huge Hollywood theater with my friend Tina, tapping my foot to the beat of a song that was already playing in my head, and as the lights came down and that pulsating riff from “Standing in the Shadows of Love” filled the room, the rush was overwhelming as we all danced in our seats in communal exhilaration. But beyond incomparable music, the film is a brilliant and touching story about these unsung musicians who made their unforgettable contribution for little money and less recognition, essentially kept in the background until…well, until this film came out. You know that inimitable tambourine heard in most Motown songs? The Funk Brothers. The particular drum beat, the signature bass lines and those guitar riffs you’d know in your sleep? Yep, the Funk Brothers. I want you to read this description of the film on (which I’ve linked here for your convenient ordering!):

Detroit, Michigan, 1959. Berry Gordy gathers the best musicians from the city’s thriving jazz and blues scene for his new record company: Motown. For the next 14 years these players are the heartbeat on “My Girl,” “Baby Love,” “Ooo Baby Baby,” “Bernadette,” “I Was Made To Love Her,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Dancing In The Street,” and every other hit from Motown’s Detroit era. By the end of their phenomenal run, the unheralded group of musicians plays on more Number One hits than the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles combined, making them the greatest hit machine in the history of popular music. They call themselves the Funk Brothers. But no one knows their names…this is their story.

And it’s a killer story. Truly. I’ve watched the film countless times, gifted the DVD to friends and family who share a passion for this seminal chapter in music; appreciated all the fine performances of the contemporary artists who appear in the film, but mostly I hold an enduring Standing Ovation for these talented, humble and underappreciated men.

And did I mention I want to sing with them?

The wonderful Joan Osborne performed in the film and did a stellar job as the blue-eyed (brown-eyed?) soul songstress doing proud justice to those kickass R&B classics. I have nothing but fandom for her as an artist and think her version of “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” is definitive and chill inducing. But that was a while ago, Joan, and no begrudging your heartfelt and memorable contribution, this really is one of those Bucket Listy things I’ve kept afloat since then and we all know time’s a’flyin’ so forgive the nudge from a sister singer and please clear the stage!

Ack…I don’t mean that, Joan. In fact, let me know when you’re on any stage in my part of the world and I’ll be one of the fans out there mouthing the words to all your songs.

And maybe direct appeal is a better approach anyway.

Um, Funk Brothers…may I call you Funk Brothers? If you’re coming out to the West Coast anytime soon and you’d like to mix it up with a little local talent, my schedule’s pretty open these days so don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m a quick study – hell, know most of your songs already – and just got my voice all in shape for a gig that fell through so I’m good to go. And say, I’ll even fly out to wherever you are; Virgin America just posted some cheap flights and I’ve got plenty of points to throw around. I’m not famous, I’m not that young (but you appreciate that, right?) and it’s unlikely most of my ’80’s mailing list would overcome their stated geezerdom to get out of the house for a gig. But I’ve still got a few fans who are mobile, I’ve developed some newer, younger ones (which is convenient when you need to fill seats past a 9:30 bedtime), I’m told I’ve still got some hip quotient left, and would social-media this baby right into the….well, I’ll just do what I can, promise.

Until then, know you’ve got a fan and booster out here who’s grateful for the music that has had me dancing my entire life, from childhood right up to the other day when that last mile felt insurmountable until “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” kicked in and you did just that – kept me hangin’ on.

So, thanks, Funk Brothers, seriously. And keep in mind that I’d be happy to bring mixed nuts or something sweet to rehearsal…

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Visit for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.