Monday, 17 October 2016

Norman Whitfield Musical Legacy Lives On Pt.1

The mastermind Norman Whitfield
Norman Whitfield was born on 12th May1940 in Harlem, New York and passed away on 16th September 2008 in Los Angeles at the age of 68. He founded Whitfield Records in Los Angeles after his departure from Motown Records. He was known as the father of the “Psychedelic Funk” sound. Longer songs, heavy bass line, distorted guitars, multi-tracked drums and inventive vocal arrangements became the trademarks of Norman’s production outputs, mainly with The Temptations.

The Grammy Award studio project and
first for Motown Records and
Norman Whitfield
He developed the sound with the help of the Motown studio band “The Funk Brothers”, with the assistance of the legendary Paul Riser as conductor and strings and horns arranger. His innovative music production concentrated more on instrumentation and put less focus on vocals, which was a major departure from the Motown signature sound, the “Sound of Young America”, that made production and song-writing team Holland, Dozier and Holland famous.

Prior to Norman Whitfield’s departure from Motown Records, he produced and co-wrote with Barrett Strong the majority of The Temptations’ recording projects during the first ten years of the label’s operation into the early 1970s, with such songs as “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”, “Ball Confusion”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and “I Can’t Get Next to You”. All these singles achieved 
platinum certification in America for selling over two million plus copies each. "Cloud Nine" won Motown Records its first Grammy Award, for Best R&B Vocal Group Performance of 1969. The Temptations’ recording projects produced by Norman featured the funky psychedelic sound which eventually created a large body of gold, platinum and multi-platinum certifications that still continue in the UK and America into the 21st Century, making The Temptations the most certified black male vocal group in music history. He also produced the last major single at the old Studio A recording studio before it was turned into  museum.The single was "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" which received platinum award by RIAA for over two million copies sold in America and peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart week-ending 2nd December 1972 (1 week).
The gold certified album "All Directions"
that features "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone"

This demonstrates the excellent production ability of Whitfield and the sound engineer at the time, the legendary Russ Terrana (a white man who was responsible for the sound engineering and mixing of over 89 number one records for Motown Records from the mid 1960s to early 1970s) and the brilliance of The Funk Brothers studio band. The musical compositions of Norman and Barrett reflected the social unrest and violent disturbances that took place across America’s inner cities after the death of Martin Luther King and also America’s involvement in the Vietnam War during the late 1960s. Musically they were totally in tune with the current events of that time.     



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About Me

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Old Harlow, Essex, United Kingdom
Kevin Tomlin has over 34 years of teaching experience in Jamaica, England and America, including 15 years teaching music history of black origin and visual art in South Florida, U.S.A., through Arts in Education. Tomlin created special training programmes and workshops for music teachers in South Florida schools, using music history as the foundation, to build exciting programmes of study and support materials for education professionals. Since 2000, he’s taught music history, geography, religious education, history, visual arts and performing arts at schools in Hertfordshire and Essex, at both primary and secondary levels. He conducts research and provides consultancy services for multi-media organisations, schools, recording artists, cultural and faith-based groups and entertainment professionals.

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