Here’s a documentary on the funk scene in Britain, a tale told through many talking heads, and one of them happens to be Martin Freeman, of Sherlock and The Hobbit fame. You might miss him, since it was apparently before he employed a stylist and committed to a workout routine, but he’s in there as a fanboy / collector / DJ of funk / rare groove.
I was sent this next video, Martin Freeman Goes to Motown, from Marc of Meiotic Chicago featuring a star-struck Martin wandering around Detroit meeting people who were artists and studio musicians on Motown Records (city councilwoman Martha Reeves, former lead singer of Martha and the Vandellas; Duke Fakir, the last surviving member of the Four Tops; the Funk Brothers jamming out at their local bar…) interspersed with the quintessential footage of that burnt-and-abandoned Detroit that makes for such interesting TV, but overall it maintained a certain reverence for the original movement that caused such a stir over in Great Britain.
While recovering from a seasonal cold, I found some interesting documentaries on Chess Records and the competing labels at the same time on the near South side of Chicago. Chess Records was responsible for launching hits by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Etta James, along with bringing blues by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf into commercial awareness. The movies Cadillac Records (2008) and Who Do You Love (2008) are Hollywood’s version of the history, with Beyonce as Etta James in the former.
Interestingly, Chess was the last name of a Polish immigrant entrepreneur, Leonard, who catered to the immigrant Southern black population and found a common outsider perspective with his clientele.
More on Chess Records and the competing labels within walking distance along South Michigan Avenue is in another documentary aired on PBS in 1997 called Record Row:
I had no idea there was any sort of rivalry between Motown Records and Chicago until I started digging a bit.
I never cringe if anybody sings or covers a song, I find it very moving even though it might be quite bad, I still find it very moving that somebody would be bothered or interested to do it. Some of them really do affect me emotionally. But I find it extraordinary that every single day, that I hear new cover versions of songs, somebody is covering a Smiths song, every day, which I find incredible. Because British radio would never play the Smiths and they’ve (the Smiths) proven to be one of the most influential bands ever, despite everything. Despite many obstacles and they were never helped, they were never helped. So it’s interesting how, if you do have something important or special or meaningful that it will seep through eventually and nobody can stop it.”
He also goes on to explain his compromised immune system-related health issues, and appreciates his fan base and dismisses “reunion tours” as being completely commercial in nature.
In this BBC documentary called “The Hitmaker,” we learn that Nile Rodgers not only spearheaded Chic, but he is basically the Chuck Norris of pop production. He was classically trained and went on to provide the uber funkiness in the pop, disco and R&B songs of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. You’re going to le Freak when I start embedding some of the songs he produced, after the jump (below). Let’s see… David Bowie, Sister Sledge, Madonna, Duran Duran, and (yes, sadly) Daft Punk’s latest attempt at mining other people’s creative capital for their own good. He migrated the funk and disco aesthetic over to pop music, and you didn’t even see it coming. Here are some examples:
It’s less about computer geekery and more about consumer geekery: video games, sci-fi and so on, but features a rapping Seth Green and cameos by Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) and Stan Lee.
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