SmokeyRobinson

Smokey Robinson, Motown’s founding brother

Berry Gordy is undoubtedly Motown’s founding father, but Gordy would not have achieved his spectacular success without Motown’s founding brother, Smokey Robinson. To those of us who were fans of Motown, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles was simply part of the astonishing lineup of artists that Motown produced during the 1960s and 1970s. Behind the […]

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GeneralStore

Presidential candidates who stayed put and the one who didn’t, Smokey Robinson, and the no-tears absence of baseball: newsletter, May 15, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,579) on Friday, May 15, 2020.     One of the bright spots we had going for us this spring — among so many spots that were not quite so bright — is the garden, which with plenty of rain and somewhat cooler temperatures had […]

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WilliamJenningsBryan

A stay-at-home presidential campaign is nothing new to American politics

Joe Biden is stuck in his basement. Donald Trump is stuck in the White House or in Mar-A-Largo. Neither of the presidential nominees-to-be is out “on the hustings” or “pressing the flesh,” as would be happening in normal quadrennial years. No big rallies, no $1,000-a-plate fundraising dinners, not even conference rooms with staffers to plan […]

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ClareHollingsworth

Clare Hollingsworth: A newbie reporter gets the scoop of the century

During the last week in August 1939, Clare Hollingsworth had been a fulltime newspaper reporter for less than a week. She had been hired by the London Daily Telegraph to cover Poland, and she was based in the western Polish town of Katowice. She asked the British consul there if she could borrow his chauffeured […]

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TheTemptations

Temptations: soulful voices, close harmonies, and choreography that made you want to dance

No group that Motown produced exemplified the Motown sound better than the Temptations. Throughout the decade of the 1960s, the Temptations dominated the charts with their deep, soulful rhythms, the near-perfect blend of their harmonies, and most of all their mesmerizing choreography. Those guys could dance, and if you saw them either live or on television, […]

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TheTemptations

Clare Hollingsworth’s ‘scoop’ of the century, William Styron’s ‘mistakes,’ the Temptations, and reader reaction: newsletter, May 8, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, May 8, 2020.   {% endif %}One of the most enjoyable things about woodworking — besides completing a project itself — is something I had never really articulated before this week. I was watching one of Steve Ramsey‘s YouTube videos, and he managed […]

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MarthaandtheVandellas

Martha and the Vandellas: Heat Waves, Quicksand, and but always Dancing in the Street

At the very beginnings, there was no heat wave or dancing in the streets. There was no Martha, and they called themselves something other than the Vandellas. In 1957 Rosalind Ashford, Gloria Williams, and Annette Beard — plus a couple of others — were simply teenagers in Detroit, singing in different clubs in the area. They called […]

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MarthaandtheVandellas

Martha and the Vandellas go dancing in the streets, Wordsworth’s 250th, checking on your local bookstore, and time in the workshop: newsletter, May 1, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,587) on Friday, May 1, 2020.       Whatever your circumstances are during this pandemic and isolation period, chances are there are folks who are a lot worse off than you are. Finding ways to help those folks, rather than simply amusing ourselves, should […]

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BerryGordy

Berry Gordy began Motown with an $800 loan from his family

Not quite 30 years old in 1959, Berry Gordy needed money. Gordy was from a solid, hard-working African-American family in Detroit —  a family that emphasized discipline and education — but Berry, the seventh of eight children, had not accomplished much in his first three decades. He had been in the Army, which he didn’t […]

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BerryGordy

The queen of pandemic literature, Motown’s founding father, Shakespeare online, and reader reaction: newsletter, April 24, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,587) on Friday, April 24, 2020.     Before the pandemic hit, I had been planning a small display for our library on Motown in order to let patrons know about all of the Motown books that we have on the shelves. That idea, obviously, has been […]

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The Marvelettes

Please, Mr. Postman

The Marvels needed an original song. It was 1961, and the group of five girls — Georgia Dobbins, Gladys Horton, Georgeanna Tillman, Wyanetta (“Juanita”) Cowart, and Katherine Anderson – from Inkster High School near Detroit had gotten an audition with the fledgling Motown Records. Dobbins knew a blues songwriter named William Garrett who had a half-finished tune […]

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JSBach1

Johann Sebastian Bach: a spectacular failure and an ultimate success

It was the greatest letter of application for a job in the history of letters. It was also a spectacular failure. The applicant didn’t get the job. The year was 1721 and the 36-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach, whose wife had died the year before leaving him with small children to raise, was looking for a […]

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Merriam-Webster catches up with the virus

Words are added to the language every day. Sometimes they stick to the language. More often they don’t. That’s why dictionary makers are slow to add words to their corral. They like to make sure they’ve stuck and are in use. With the current pandemic, the folks at Merrian-Webster decided that they couldn’t play the […]

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MortDrucker

America’s chief subversive, more on the bees, the Marvelettes, and talking ourselves into infirmities: newsletter, April 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,590) on Friday, April 17, 2020. \   Not being able to grieve properly and not being able to express sympathy in person are two of the chief difficulties of our current situation. I mentioned those last week, and a friend who is a minister […]

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Woody Allen’s book ‘Apropos of Nothing’ gets less than sterling reviews

Woody Allen’s autobiography — subject of acceptance and then rejection by Hatchette publishing house — did indeed find a publisher. (See the previous post: Whither Woody Allen, his family, his publisher, his reputation, etc.) Maybe having your book rejected by a publisher is not such a bad thing after all. Allen’s autobiography, Apropo of Nothing, has […]

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MarvinGaye

Fifty years ago, Marvin Gaye asked What’s Going On?

Despite a volatile temper and an extremely troubled personal life, Marvin Gaye was one of many Motown talents whose smooth tones and distinctive rhythms filled the rock ‘n roll airwaves during the 1960s. Not only could he croon with hits such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “Too […]

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Talking ourselves – and others – into the ‘inevitable’ infirmities of old age

In early December, I tripped and wound up with a small fracture in my kneecap. The result was that I limped around for a couple of months but managed to maintain some of my normal walking schedule. One morning, a person I regularly see on our walks asked me what  happened, and I told her. […]

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IdaTarbell

Ida Tarbell: Life after Standard Oil (part 3)

Part 1: Ida Tarbell — the sharp, powerful arrow of her words (part 1) Part 2: Ida Tarbell: Madame Roland, Napoleon, and Abraham Lincoln (part 2) Ida Tarbell developed her life as an independent thinker and writer. She asserted her right to be and think in whatever way she saw fit, and she did not conform to […]

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Arnold Mesches covered dramatic courtroom scenes as an artist and was subject to decades-long surveillance by the FBI

Can redacted FBI files, with their various typefaces and thick heavy black lines, be considered works of art? Artist Arnold Mesches believed so, and when he finally received the files the FBI had collected on him through many years of surveillance, he was struck by their visual qualities. Documentary writer and producer Alix Lambert writes […]

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MarvinGaye

An artist and the FBI, Marvin Gaye, Woody Allen, and the first modern detective: newsletter, April 10, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, April 10, 2020. A friend has died of COVID-19. He was not a close friend but someone I had known for just a few months. I would see him once a week at a group I met with — before we stopped […]

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