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I listened to a Guardian podcast today with Steve Levine, producer of Culture Club. He was talking about Motown and giving insights while deconstructing some of the musical parts from the big hits.

What struck me was Levine’s intelligence and articulacy. He was knowledgeable and well informed. He was also clearly passionate about these great works. The journalist conducting the talk came across to me almost clueless by comparison.

That’s the thing: many of those who talk about music bring so little insight to the fore. They are usually all opinion and prejudice. Musicians too: few I’ve known have anything interesting to say about music whatsoever.

I’ve been long enough starved of the company of people like Levine who are knowledgeable about process. He talked about Norman Whitfield (writer of Grapevine) being a process guy, meaning he was steeped in everything to do with the art of making records.

Apparently Whitfield had Grapevine turned down by Gordy several times. Even after Marvin Gaye recorded it, it still wasn’t given priority by Motown. As with What’s Going On in the 70s it would become an iconic hit despite the record company. So often true that. Everyone turned down The Beatles. Clueless!

many who talk about music bring little insight


music • 30.07.11