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Norman Whitfield’s Funky Business

With the passing of legendary Motown producer and songwriter Norman Whitfield at the age of 67, now is as good a time as any to celebrate his life and music. With what else? Crappy quality video clips! Going back to the beginning, even Whitfield’s earliest Motown productions stood out for having tighter instrumentation and danceability. His work on the Marvelettes’ 1964 hit “Too Many Fish In The Sea” was an especially hot example. Here are the ladies (L-R: Wanda Young, Katherine Anderson, Gladys Horton) lip-synching that tune on Teen Town:

Next we have the culmination of Whitfield’s celebrated union with The Temptations: 1972’s “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” This is where the funk went from psychedelic to epic, with all of the Tempts (even basso Melvin Franklin) trading bravura leads. To best appreciate Whitfield’s production, you really need to hear the original LP-length version on headphones. But I suppose this Soul Train performance, with some mesmerizing dancers in the audience, would be a good second choice:

R.I.P. Norman Whitfield.

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