Thursday, September 18, 2008

Forever soul.

Probably the most influential song-writer and record producer of the modern era has died. Along with Barrett Strong he penned the genre defining hits for Motown that included Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Grapevine and Cloud Nine. On Rolling Stone he was the first to tape loop a bass line in order to create the hypnotic effect that underpins that whole song; in effect introducing the concept of sequencing many years ahead of its time.

Before he turned Motown around he'd been a pool hustler. How cool is that? Without Norman there would be no modern urban sound, things would sound different in this world of ours.

His production techniques gave rise to the whole area of psychedelic soul that laid the foundations for Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Stevie Wonder's immense trilogy, Talking Book, Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. He broke down boundaries between musical styles and along with Sly Stone opened the ears of the world to the wonders of the fuzz guitar.

The first time I heard the full length version of Rolling Stone by The Temptations I wept. It was the majestic sweep and the sheer beauty of the music, the cascading strings and the sublime vocal arrangements that tore a hole in my heart and opened my mind to music far beyond the confines of my teenage years. Though I already knew Motown's catalogue of glorious singles it had never occurred to me that these acts were "album" artists. I still have my original vinyl version of All Directions, and I still play it to this day.

And to think some penny pinching no mark treasury scum were pursuing him to the ends of his days.

Have a drink to him. Here's why he was the Mozart of Soul.

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