Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Motown Man

Every Christmas, Marie, Blaine and I pull out the ridiculous number of Christmas CDs we have accumulated, and actually listen to them. We have some great ones, in the pile, traditional, contemporary, even some over the top novelty stuff. But there is one artist who has been missing from our collection, so I rectified that this week by ordering “The Very Best Of Stan Freberg”, which holds that much adored Christmas classic, “Green Christmas”. When I was a kid, I completely loved Stan Freberg, and I count him among my musical (and lyrical) influences.

I opened the CD just minutes ago, and took it to show my step-son Blaine, who holes up in his room each morning readying for the day. As I sit and write, I can hear the CD emanating from his room downstairs, not only “Green Christmas”, but other nutty Freberg efforts, “John and Marsha”, and some off the wall version of “The Great Pretender” (Oh yes, I’m the great preteh-ender).

It’s weird hearing that CD wafting out of his room. Usually, Blaine has his radio set on an “oldies” station, and later, as he sits at his computer, the oldies continue, as his iTunes shuffle, maybe some Beatles, and lots of Motown, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson.

When I met Blaine Deatherage-Newsom in 1997, he had just graduated form Wilson High school here in Portland, and, given his disabilities, it was quite a feat. The Gods of Education have shone down on Blaine, in many ways, his formal schooling, his Mom's influence, his extra curricular reading, his web cruising, his work experience. Never mind that he is a sponge for facts and figures. And one area that he has somehow come to embrace and excel at is, well, anything “Motown”. Marie is a big Motown buff, and they both LOVE the music, so that’s probably the root of it. But Blaine has basically got it down to a science. Sure, there are a few things he might not know about Motown. All I know is, when you need a Motown lifeline on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”, you couldn’t do much better than givin’ ol' Blainey a call.

To honor Blaine for his secondary school achievement, that year, his Mom (my future wife Marie) had been planning a special congratulatory trip for him. to Cleveland, to see “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”, and to Detroit, to take in the recording studio where Berry Gordy and the early stars of Motown plied their trade, “Hitsville, U.S.A.” Marie invited me to go, and it was just a fantastic, fun trip, as I have expanded on here before. And besides being a blast, I think we all decided, on that trip, that we were gonna be a family.

A couple of years ago, likely after a stellar display of Motown knowledge, I retired to my studio to compose a song about Blaine, which is titled “Motown Man”. It appears on my 2005 CD “Who Come Down”. Here’s a clip:
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