CLOSE
Original image

The Late Movies: Happy Birthday, Motown!

Original image

Fifty years ago, Berry Gordy, a songwriter for local Detroit acts like The Matadors and Jackie Wilson, borrowed $800 from his family and founded two record labels that became incorporated a year later as Motown Record Corporation. In its half-century of existence Motown forged an unmistakable sound in popular music, turned a number of artists into superstars and legends (from 1961 to 1971 alone, the label churned out 110 top 10 hits), and helped bridge the racial divide with songs that everyone, regardless of their color, could dance to.

To celebrate the last 50 years and, we hope, many more to come, here are some of my personal favorite (highly subjective and whittled down from a much larger list) Motown classics, plus a few surprises at the end.

Too Busy Thinking About My Baby

"Too Busy Thinking About My Baby," written by Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong and Janie Bradford (the receptionist at Mowtown's Hitsville U.S.A. studio who helped Strong write Motown's first big hit, "Money (That's What I Want)", while the two were still in high school) was first recorded by The Temptations and later by Jimmy Ruffin and Marvin Gaye. Gaye's 1969 is my favorite of the three, mostly because the bass line that drops in 10 seconds into the song hits you like kick in the chest.

I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)

"I Can't Help Myself" was written and produced by Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian Holland and Edward Holland, Jr., who were Motown's main production team and considered by many critics to be one of pop music's greatest songwriting teams (I concur). The Four Tops recorded the song in 1965 and it hit number one on the R&B charts and the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for two non-consecutive weeks. Rolling Stone ranked the song #415 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Baby Love
Another Holland-Dozier-Holland composition, "Baby Love" was recorded by the Supreme in 1964. It was the groups most successful single, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, number one on the UK Singles Chart for two weeks and #324 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. This song also made the Supremes the first Motown artists to have more than one number-one single (they continue to hold the record for most number-one hits with twelve).

Ball of Confusion
I'm putting up two videos for this song. One is a live version from The Smokey Robinson Show, because why bother doing a Motown video post if you don't get to see the Temptations dance? The other is an imovie project that falls into my favorite YouTube genre: music video for a song that is composed of generic images of things mentioned in the lyrics.

The Tears of a Clown
Stevie Wonder and his producer Hank Cosby wrote the music for "The Tears of a Clown," but wonder struggled with a song to go with the instrumental track. He brought it to the 1966 Motown Christmas party to see if Smokey Robinson could come up with anything for it. Robinson noted that the song "sounded like a circus," and ran with it. The song became the number-one hit on both the pop and R&B charts was The Miracles only #1 hit during Robinson's time as lead singer. Fun fact: Robinson has two children named Berry (after Motown founder Berry Gordy) and Tamla (after the Motown subsidiary label).

Dancing in the Street
The idea for the song came to producer William "Mickey" Stevenson after watching kids in the Detroit streets open up fire hydrants to keep cool in the summer. While Martha Reeves' recording was intended as a party song, "Dancing in the Street" took on additional meaning during the Civil Rights movement when organizers used it as an anthem at demonstrations. The Martha and the Vandellas' version of the song is preserved by the Library of Congress to the National Recording Registry.

Uptight (Everything's Alright)
"Uptight" was the first Stevie Wonder single that Wonder actually had a hand in writing. It also saved his career. The then-fifteen-year-old singer had had only one number-one hit and only two other singles in the Top 40. To top things off, his voice was changing and Berry Gordy worried that Wonder wouldn't be commercially viable anymore. Wonder was in danger of being dropped from the label, but "Uptight," based around an instrumental riff that Wonder had written, hit the top of the Billboard R&B Singles chart and sat there for five weeks. This video is from a 1972 Rolling Stones concert. Wonder and his entire band join the Stones for "Uptight" and then kick into "Satisfaction."

Standing in the Shadows of Motown
Standing in the Shadows of Motown is a 2002 documentary about some of the great unsung heroes of pop music. The Funk Brothers were an uncredited collection of studio musicians who performed on Motown Records' recordings between 1959 and 1972. According to the film, they played on more number-one hits than The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys combined.

The Motown Song
I'm not normally a fan of Rod Stewart. However, seeing as we're both white guys who love soul music and can't dance, I have a soft spot for this song (and its video) about how awesome Motown is. Also: The Temptations. In a flying Cadillac. OMG. WTF. [Because this last video may start to play automatically, I've stuck it on its own page. Click the "2" below.]

twitterbanner.jpg

Original image
DreamWorks
arrow
entertainment
15 Must-Watch Facts About The Ring
Original image
DreamWorks

An urban legend about a videotape that kills its viewers seven days after they see it turns out to be true. To her increasing horror, reporter Rachel Keller (then-newcomer Naomi Watts) discovers this after her niece is one of four teenage victims, and is in a race against the clock to uncover the mystery behind the girl in the video before her and her son’s time is up.

Released 15 years ago, on October 18, 2002, The Ring began a trend of both remaking Japanese horror films in a big way, and giving you nightmares about creepy creatures crawling out of your television. Here are some facts about the film that you can feel free to pass along to anybody, guilt-free.

1. DREAMWORKS BOUGHT THE AMERICAN RIGHTS TO RINGU FOR $1 MILLION.

There were conflicting stories over how executive producer Roy Lee came to see the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, Hideo Nakata's adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki. Lee said two different friends gave him a copy of Ringu in January 2001, which he loved and immediately gave to DreamWorks executive Mark Sourian, who agreed to purchase the rights. But Lee’s close friend Mike Macari worked at Fine Line Features, which had an American remake of Ringu in development before January 2001. Macari said he showed Lee Ringu much earlier. Macari and Lee were both listed as executive producers for The Ring.

2. THE DIRECTOR FIRST SAW RINGU ON A POOR QUALITY VHS TAPE, WHICH ADDED TO ITS CREEPINESS.

Gore Verbinski had previously directed MouseHunt. He said the first time he "watched the original Ringu was on a VHS tape that was probably seven generations down. It was really poor quality, but actually that added to the mystique, especially when I realized that this was a movie about a videotape." Naomi Watts struggled to find a VHS copy of Ringu while shooting in the south of Wales. When she finally got a hold of one she watched it on a very small TV alone in her hotel room. "I remember being pretty freaked out," Watts said. "I just saw it the once, and that was enough to get me excited about doing it."

3. THE RING AND RINGU ARE ABOUT 50 PERCENT DIFFERENT.

Naomi Watts in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

Verbinski estimated that, for the American version, they "changed up to 50 percent of it. The basic premise is intact, the story is intact, the ghost story, the story of Samara, the child." Storylines involving the characters having ESP, a volcano, “dream logic,” and references to “brine and goblins” were taken out.

4. IT RAINED ALMOST EVERY DAY WHEN THEY FILMED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.

The weather added to the “atmosphere of dread,” according to the film's production notes. Verbinski said the setting allowed them to create an “overcast mood” of dampness and isolation.

5. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER WAS INFLUENCED BY ANDREW WYETH.

Artist Andrew Wyeth tended to use muted, somber earth tones in his work. "In Wyeth's work, the trees are always dormant, and the colors are muted earth tones," explained production designer Tom Duffield. "It's greys, it's browns, it's somber colors; it's ripped fabrics in the windows. His work has a haunting flavor that I felt would add to the mystique of this movie, so I latched on to it."

6. THERE WERE RINGS EVERYWHERE.

The carpeting and wallpaper patterns, the circular kitchen knobs, the doctor’s sweater design, Rachel’s apartment number, and more were purposely designed with the film's title in mind.

7. WATTS AND MARTIN HENDERSON HAD A FRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL RIVALRY.

Martin Henderson and Naomi Watts star in 'The Ring' (1992)
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

The New Zealand-born Henderson played Noah, Rachel’s ex-husband. Since Watts is from Australia, Henderson said that, "Between takes, we'd joke around with each other's accents and play into the whole New Zealand-Australia rivalry."

8. THE TWO WEREN’T SURE IF THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO BE SCARY ENOUGH.

After shooting some of the scenes, and not having the benefit of seeing what they'd look like once any special effects were added, Henderson and Watts worried that the final result would not be scary enough. "There were moments when Naomi and I would look at each other and say, 'This is embarrassing, people are going to laugh,'" Henderson told the BBC." You just hope that somebody makes it scary or you're going to look like an idiot!"

9. CHRIS COOPER WAS CUT FROM THE MOVIE.

Cooper played a child murderer in two scenes which were initially meant to bookend the film. He unconvincingly claimed to Rachel that he found God in the beginning, and in the end she gave him the cursed tape. Audiences at test screenings were distracted that an actor they recognized disappears for most of the film, so he was cut out entirely.

10. THEY TRIED TO GET RID OF ALL OF THE SHADOWS.

Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli used the lack of sunlight in Washington to remove the characters’ shadows. The two wanted to keep the characters feeling as if “they’re floating a little bit, in space.”

11. THE TREE WAS NICKNAMED "LUCILLE."

The red Japanese maple tree in the cursed video was named after the famous redheaded actress Lucille Ball. The tree was fake, built out of steel tubing and plaster. The Washington wind blew it over three different times. The night they put up the tree in Los Angeles, the wind blew at 60 miles per hour and knocked Lucille over yet again. "It was very strange," said Duffield.

12. MOESKO ISLAND IS A FUNCTIONING LIGHTHOUSE.

Moesko Island Lighthouse is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Yaquina River, a mile west of Agate Beach, Oregon. The website Rachel checks, MoeskoIslandLighthouse.com, used to actually exist as a one-page website, which gave general information on the fictional place. You can read it here.

13. A WEBSITE WAS CREATED BY DREAMWORKS TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE AND ADD TO ITS MYTHOLOGY.

Before and during the theatrical release, if you logged into AnOpenLetter.com, you could read a message in white lettering against a black background warning about what happens if you watch the cursed video (you can read it here). By November 24, 2002, it was a standard official website made for the movie, set up by DreamWorks.

14. VERBINSKI DIDN’T HAVE FUN DIRECTING THE MOVIE.

“It’s no fun making a horror film," admitted Verbinski. "You get into some darker areas of the brain and after a while everything becomes a bit depressing.”

15. DAVEIGH CHASE SCARED HERSELF.

Daveigh Chase in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

When Daveigh Chase, who played Samara, saw The Ring in theaters, she had to cover her eyes out of fear—of herself. Some people she met after the movie came out were also afraid of her.

Original image
Land Cover CCI, ESA
arrow
Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
Original image
Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios