Funk Brothers doo-wop the Birchmere

Legendary backup band takes center stage in Alexandria

The Funk Brothers caused a raucous audience to dance, clap and work some naughty moves on performers at the Birchmere music hall in Alexandria, Va., Monday night. For those who are not familiar with the band, guest vocalist Peabo Bryson described the Funk Brothers best by saying that "their music is the fabric of our society." Their music could be considered the soundtrack of our parent's baby-boomer generation.

Memorable songs such as "My Girl," "Stop! In the Name of Love," and "What's Goin' On" are just a few reasons why the Funk Brothers will be the recipient of the 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys on Feb. 8.

The house band for Motown Records recorded and toured with great acts such as the Supremes, the Temptations, the Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. The Funk Brothers did not get much credit until the recent release of the documentary "Standing in the Shadows of Motown."

The film's Web site stated "they played on more No. 1 records than the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and Elvis combined." This band is true royalty to American culture and popular music, generating a storm on stage with the remaining six Funk Brothers dressed in appropriate royal-blue/indigo jackets.

The show started off with Stevie Wonder's "Uptight" with raspy soulful vocals from Johnny Ingram, and funky drums and bass. When the Four Tops' "Reach Out" came on, the audience did just that, shaking it out of their seats with their hands in the air. Vocalist Raoul Midon shocked the crowd with his instrumental lip trumpeting and vocals during the catchy "For Once in My Life," also by Wonder.

A dozen audience members jumped on stage with the band during "My Girl," shuffling their doo-wop strides back and forth. At one point during this song, the audience interacted continuously repeating, "there ain't no party like a Funk Brother party 'cuz a Funk Brother party don't stop."

Carla Benson kept the energy high, inviting two women on stage to join her vocals and choreography during the Supremes' "Stop! In the Name of Love." Peabo Bryson's highlights included beautiful high pitches on Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour" and Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On."

A live performance with the remaining Funk Brothers - Eddie Willis, Joe Messina, Bob Babbitt, Uriel Jones, Jack Ashford and Joe Hunter - was an exciting way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and his "I Have a Dream" speech, with performers and audience members of all ages and backgrounds together in unison.

The film "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" and its soundtrack are highly recommended to those who might like to expand their musical interests or learn about pioneers in the music industry. For more information visit www.standingintheshadowsofmotown.com.

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