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Dave Godin's First column for Soulful Kinda Music. Issue 21

It's great to be able to start a new series of columns with the news that Doris Troy is currently over here in Britain with her show "Mama I Want To Sing". Written by her sister Vy, and with the brilliant Soul songstress Chaka Khan in the cast, it is based loosely on Doris' own life and her ambition to become a singer and a star (both of which she achieved in full flush!), and it has been successfully performed both in the USA and in many countries around the world. Although some critics were less than generous in their reviews, (as indeed mainstream critics over here always have been with almost anything to do with Blackamerica until it has become so big they can't ignore it any more), the show has been a huge hit with audiences, and was responsible for the "House Full" notice going outside the Cambridge Theatre in London's West End for the first time in over three years! Doris says she hopes lots of Soul people will be able to get to see it, and, if you can't make it to London, she hopes that eventually it might tour the rest of the country. Because Doris knows and loves her UK fans, she insisted that "I'll Do Anything (He Wants Me To)" be added to the score over here, and from reports I've had from friends who've already seen it, audiences are jumping in and over the aisles as the cast belt out that magic combination of Soul, Gospel and the sheer celebration of life itself. By my next column, I should have been to see it, so I'll report back as soon as I can. Also, Doris told me she wants to meet Soul people whilst she's over here since she is well aware that it is the hard-core Soul people who have kept her name alive and vibrant through the years, so if anyone is organising an event on a Sunday, contact me with details. She doesn't want to perform, just mingle with people and talk, and try to understand just where that ardent loyalty of British Soul fans comes from!!  

Although I've not had a chance to read his book, I did catch Berry Gordy Jnr., being questioned by a somewhat seemingly nervous interviewer on BBC's "The Late Show", but, as charming as his personality invariably is, I couldn't help noticing that he'd fallen into that trap that so bedevils any accurate record of cultural history, which is the "wisdom of hindsight", and the re-writing of facts to accord to subsequent developments. He said that it was The Supremes that took Motown into the Big Time, but when I was invited to Motown over 30 years ago, The Supremes were regarded as so "second-level" that they'd not even been invited to the reception that was held for me! In fact, as I greatly admired their non-hit outings "Let Me Go The Right Way", and "When The Lovelight Starts Shining Thru His Eyes", I asked if they were around, and an embarrassed secretary had to make a hasty phone call and tell them to come on in and meet me! It was, without doubt, Mary Wells who was then the Queen of Motown, (although as soon as I'd exchanged a dozen words with Diane (as she was then), I knew I was in the presence of an ambitious usurper!). And when anyone refers to "The Motown Sound", surely it is reasonable to say that that distinctive, unique and special "something" that we all identify as such was 90% created by the team we lovingly refer to as "Holland, Dozier & Holland". Berry mentioned none of them, which was a shame, since no matter how much you subsequently fall out with someone, it shouldn't be allowed to distort the subsequent historic record. In the same programme however, Berry did release me from a promise that I've religiously kept for a quarter of a century, and admitted that Diana Ross was his lover. I had found out about this years before in the worst of all possible ways, by going into a room which I thought was empty, but which contained two people... They said they were thankful that it was me who had entered since they both knew I could be trusted to keep their secret... and I did! Hopefully, perhaps I might be able to review his book for a subsequent column. 

Those of you who were able to get to see the Bobby Bland/Irma Thomas concert at Colne last year certainly saw something one could hardly ever forget. Irma was in top form (as always), and I am happy to go on record and declare that I think she gave the best live Soul performance I have ever seen in my life! She defies description even from me, and if I have just one criticism, it's regret that she didn't bring a backing group with her. Without a group in there, artists try and sing both parts, and, as these often have to overlap, it just can't be done effectively; but that apart, she was magnificent. Bobby Bland alas, although lovely to see for old times' sake, was not on top form. Maybe he's simply getting too old for it now, and why on earth does nobody ever advise artists like him what songs UK audiences will be wanting to hear? He's never had any kind of a chart entry in Britain, but has had underground Soul hits, and regardless of how they fared in the USA, those are the songs people here will want to hear. No "Yum Yum Tree", and even, no "Turn On Your Lovelight", let alone Deep Soul gems like "I'm Too Far Gone To Turn Around" or "Rockin' In The Same Old Boat". Soul artists must realise that the UK is not just an extension of the US Soul market, and must tailor their acts accordingly if people are to leave with a warm, soulful glow. 

An idea I had recently might be of interest to a lot of Soul fans out there. Everyone of us must have a "wants list", and in addition, must have a whole slew of titles that you'd like to hear, but have never had the opportunity, so it occurred to me that maybe we could devise some means by which people who want to hear sides could advertise their craving, and those who have them could put them on tape for them. It wouldn't be illegal provided there was no financial gain involved (spiritual gain counts for nothing in hard cash circles!), and might just put a few people out of the misery of longing. I'm dying to hear (both sides since I'm the known King of the B Sides) Kenny Carter's RCA-Victor outing "Don't Go" which, whenever it appears on a list is always "sold" before I can get to it. Write in and let me know what you think of the idea (and send me the Kenny Carter side if you have it). We'd have to establish a means by which people were reimbursed for the cost of the tape and postage, but I reckon if the goodwill is there, it could work. 

Finally, I must share with you a minor miracle that occurred in my life. As some of you may know, my first introduction to the music of Blackamerica was in 1953 as a schoolkid visiting the Silver Lounge Ice Cream Parlour for a Knickerbocker Glory I'd illicitly saved for out of my school dinner money. Until then, I had no interest in any music other than "classical", but on this occasion they'd installed a gleaming new juke-box, full of 45rpm singles (which had only just been introduced into Britain), and some young workmen were playing it. It was then that I heard "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean" by Ruth Brown, and was transfixed by something I'd never ever before heard the likes of! I went to the juke-box to see what this magnificent record was, and one of the young men who had put it on, told me what it was, and explained it was "R&B music". He also said that if I liked that one, I'd probably also like some others in the box, and he generously put in enough money to play about four other R&B records for me which I feverishly wrote down in the back of my school notebook. (Remember, this was way before the term "Rock & Roll" has been coined). (It always seems to me a great regret in life that you seldom get the chance to go back and thank anyone for the way in which they may have unknowingly subsequently enriched my life, so if that "young man" is reading this, deepest thanks are here in record from the bottom of my heart!). Also, through all the decades in which I was involved with Blackamerican music, I never met Ruth Brown, and never met anyone else who knew her or could convey my thanks to her by proxy. So, imagine my surprise when, just before Christmas, I had a phone call from her as she was over here appearing at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London, and at long, long last, I was able to thank her in person for that magical introduction to everything else that is now part of my own history! (Who knows if I hadn't gone into that place that day, how long I might have had to wait before I saw the light? It doesn't bear thinking about..). It was like being able to repay a forgotten debt of over 40 years standing, and, I don't mind admitting that by the end of our conversation, we were both on the verge of tears. As James Phelps put it so eloquently on his ace Cadet side "Action"; "those magic moments that I dream exist..." 

Until next time, keep the faith.