Valley Rhythms by Lola Rossi-Meza

This week, the passing of many of the Twentieth Century musical giants came upon us. Motown really took a Hit! Otis “Damen” Harris of The Temptations, passed first, then ten days later his fellow Temptations mate Richard Street followed. Just this week, Bobby Rogers, co-founder of The Miracles, also left us. Rogers along with Smokey Robinson, Claudette Rogers, Pete Moore and Ronnie White,  founded the group in 1956, and soon had a series of hits, including “Shop Around”, “The Tracks of My Tears” and “I Second That Emotion”. Robinson was profoundly saddened by the passing of his long-time friend, who was born on the same day in the same hospital, in the same neighborhood.

It was a record loss for an industry so rich in talent that fueled the music business for decades and right into a new century. Music so incredible, its makers leave a wealth of songs still sung and requested today. Old School is the only school; soul, rhythm and blues, smooth jazz, call it what it is, Motown. Vocal groups like The Supremes, The Temptations, The Miracles, and the genius behind it, Barry Gordy, all grew up in the same neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, “Hitsville.”

So today, I celebrate Motown Music in a way suggested by Mary Wilson of the Supremes, “The essence of Bobby (Harris) is in the lines he spoke in the background of the song, “What’s Going On”, he said ‘It’s just a groovy party, man, I can dig it…’” You can, too, just turn on the radio, check out the casinos and listen to the music played in restaurants. As another era goes by, a new revival, the next generation comes to view. Boomers go Motown, it’s on the air, it’s on the stage, it’s everywhere.

Here in our Valley, Motown roots have spread far, wide and deep. Valley musicians have come from all over this planet to live and plant roots here. I will connect these dots. Motown to Palm Springs, first stop. In this photo, of course, Diana Ross, Mary Wilson Florence Ballard of the Supremes… Question: Who is in the background?  Answer: Generations of musicians to come. Hint: One of them sang background for Marvin Gay.

He now sings “Hitsville” every Thursday in Palm Springs in the Escena Lounge and Grill at the Escena Golf Club with his old band mate, pianist and vocalist Denise Motto, saxophonist Doug Ledesma and me, Lola Rossi. His name is Rob Carter. He has made quite an impression at Escena, so much so, he has become a regular. Next week this column will feature him and his career. Until then stop by Escena, “It’s a groovy party.”


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