Motown is downtown
All we need is music, sweet music, there’ll be music everywhere/there’ll be swingin’ swayin’, and records playin’, dancin’ in the street.
Martha and the Vandellas, Motown greats of the 1960s, sang some of the best to capture the essence of Motown, and this weekend, the sweet music of Motown will be heading to Washington’s waterfront.
The Washington Harbor District Alliance hosts Downtown Motown, an all-star Motown review led by East Carolina University professor of music, and bass player, Carroll Dashiell, in Festival Park on Saturday. Dashiell is no stranger to the genre: he’s lent his musical skills to The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, Gladys Knight and played with Ray Charles at the tender age of 16.
“It’s a fun show — a family event,” said Dashiell. “At some point, everyone’s going to hear at least one song they recognize.”
The Motown years and its stream of Top 40 hits bring back great memories for Washington native Evette McGill, of days she and her older sister would walk to Jowdy’s record shop on the corner of Main and Respess streets, where the store clerk would spin 45-rpm records for them so they could listen before they made a purchase.
To McGill,who is one of Downtown Motown’s organizers, the event represents a way to unite multiple generations: she, her mother and her daughter-in-law will all be there.
“Everybody in my family listened to Motown,” McGill explained. “That era was real simple … people just walked the street, listened to music, left our doors open.”
If the music represents a bygone era, Dashiell stepped up decades ago to honor the impact Motown and African-American musicians had on the music industry. He put together the review in 1982. Since he became an ECU professor in 1988, he has used the show as a tool to illustrate Motown’s affect on popular music and culture to Pitt County school students and the wider ECU audience during Black History Month each year.
Dashiell said he’s put together a band that ties back to the Motown greats: Jon Ozment (pianist, The Soul Searchers), Ronee Martin (vocalist, Motown’s jazz label) and Vaughan Ambrose (saxophonist, Aretha Franklin), but when Dashiell says Downtown Motown is a family friendly event, it’s especially so onstage: Dashiell’s son “CV,” a percussionist, and his daughter, Christie, a vocalist, will be performing alongside their father and the assembled band. Christie Dashiell will be recognized for her performance on the 2011 season of NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” as lead female vocalist with “Afro-Blue,” Howard University’s a cappella group.
“It’s a really a good mix of everyone,” said Dashiell. “The band is family and we try to convey that to the audience.”
Dashiell called Downtown Motown “an opportunity to fellowship together” with the great “uniter” being the music of Motown. His words of advice for Motown lovers in advance of Saturday: “Be prepared to have a good time.”