As Motown continues to roll out celebrations of its 60th anniversary, it’s extremely curious who doesn’t get attention for their hard work and extraordinary talents getting the label underway.
There’s plenty of names that get lost today behind the glittering legacy of Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and the mourning of Marvin Gaye. Indeed if it weren’t for this particular person, none of these people would have had the well assembled resources to make those perfect records in the first place.
William Stevenson is one name that was there from the very beginning in 1959. As many Motown stalwarts, he was a very young 22 years old when he came onboard to the future Hitsville U.S.A. However, he did recognize the need for the label to have a certain clearing house effect to pair talented studio musicians with the vocalists the label signed at a breakneck pace. We can credit him for at least assembling what would become The Funk Brothers.
We don’t really credit him as the prolific songwriter he was for the label either. Granted, he rarely worked alone, and oft worked in mentorship capacity for a wide variety of Motown songwriters, from Marvelette Gladys Horton to the Holland-Dozier-Holland team to Norman Whitfield and Sylvia Moy. But his name and style are cemented on some of the biggest and most-oft covered Motown catalog numbers.
Part of the reason he might be ignored in terms of the Motown legacy is that he didn’t have a signature pairing like H-D-H & The Supremes/Four Tops. He consistently pitched in hits where some former stars found fallow periods, especially to Martha & The Vandellas, The Spinners and to a lesser extent, The Marvelettes.
Also, maybe Berry Gordy, nearly 90 years old, still has a grudge against Stevenson walking away to MGM records with then-wife Kim Weston in tow. He didn’t encounter the same level of obstruction Mary Wells or H-D-H encountered, and has remained remarkably productive for the last 50 plus years.
When you are such a cultural phenomenon like Motown Records is, there is such a wealth of history that you can rely on moderate pettiness to not celebrate all of the wonderful contributions of those that made a company out of people. For Mickey Stevenson, there’s no reason to not shine light on his talents, especially since we’re still lucky to be graced by his presence. As we continue to celebrate one of the greatest cultural impacts known to Western Music culture, make sure that you get in relationship with all of the names and faces.
- Gino Parks – Same Thing
- Marv Johnson – Let Yourself Go
- The Marvelettes – Mix It Up
- The Temptations – Oh Mother Of Mine
- Eddie Holland – If Cleopatra Took A Chance
- Hattie Littles – If You Leave Me Man
- Don McKenzie – Whose Heart (Are You Gonna Break Now)
- The Artistics – Get My Hands On Some Lovin’
- The Royalettes – There He Goes
- Marvin Gaye – I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby
- Shorty Long – It’s A Cryin’ Shame
- The Elgins – My Two Arms – You = Tears
- Major Lance – Hitch Hike
- The Marvelettes – Maybe I’ve Dried My Tears For The Last Time
- Martha & The Vandellas – I’ve Got It Bad
- The Contours – Can You Jerk Like Me?
- Petula Clark – Dancing In The Street
- Marvin Gaye – It’s A Lonely World Without Your Love
- The Herd – She Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’
- The Spinners – Imagination Is Running Wild
- Barbara McNair – Forget You Ever Met Me Baby
- The Righteous Brothers – Been So Nice
- The Wanted – Don’t Worry, Baby
- The Time Box – I’ll Always Love You
- The Miracles – Since You’ve Won My Heart
- The Four Tops – Sad Souvenirs
- The Temptations – Just Another Lonely Night
- Kim Weston – Hurt A Little Every Day
- Barbara Lewis – Ask The Lonely
- Marvin Gaye – Seek & You Shall Find
- Peaches & Herb – What’s The Matter With You, Baby?
- Barbara Acklin – You’ve Been In Love Too Long
- Bonnie Raitt – Danger, Heartbreak, Dead Ahead
- Staple Singers – (This Old Town) People In This Town
- Ray Frazier & The Shades of Madness – You’ve Got To Push & Pull
- Kim Weston – Soul On Fire