WHILE AT MOTOWN….WHO WERE YOUR FRIENDS???
People write every week with new questions for me to answer.
So I decided to answer the ones that are the most popular with the lot of you.
Like…"While @ Motown, who were the people you most admired??
Well let's start with EDDIE KENDRICKS.
Eddie was without a doubt, the truest reflection of a down to earth brother, who always "Kept It Real". Before there was a "hip-hop" catch phrase, there was Eddie.
No phony, smiling face pretense with "Corn".
In this respect…he was like a flopping fish out of water at Motown.
He'd sooner be burned at the stake…then not reveal the real-deal on any subject you were intrigued with. From disappointing contract woes @ Motown, race relations with non-black executives @ Motown, performing exclusively for Motown, creative fashion & aggressive women.
Whatever…. He was a mentor to me from day one.
I lived directly below "Corn" in the Southfield Towers Apartments, outside of Detroit. And I was in class, every chance I could get….whenever we both were in Detroit and not on the road. Vocal lessons were in session. Like how to sing through your “Third Eye” to ensure maximum “In Key” vocal performance, while hitting high C falsetto notes.
Yes…that was Eddie Kendricks-101.
MARVIN GAYE was my first real collaborative guru.
I learned everything I know about singing in the studio and creating an authentic sound and nuance from Marvin. He and Johnny Bristol were smooth, patient virtuosos. Two natural-born, music professors and producers, who taught me well. Marvin also gave me my first lesson about music publishing.
He’d say…“If you write it BG…you should own it!”
Unfortunately I also learned what not to do in my personal life….from watching my brother Marvin’s demise. But let me tell you in all earnest..that no one loved Christ more than Marvin. Which was a huge blessing for me, early on. 'Cause many artists at Motown shied away from talking about God in passing conversation, with you.
Like they were deathly afraid they’d offend someone powerful…and get zapped into oblivion or much worse..Black-balled from show business.
Hmmmm, now that I think about that forbidding concept…maybe they truly had something there? Well it’s rushing water under the bridge now. But not Gates.
No, not Marvin Gaye. We’d often talk about our faith in Jesus…and how you should inject God’s word into your secular productions…whenever possible. We became very astute at not letting the powers that be, detect it. On the contrary….He did once yell out to me across a crowded Motown parking lot as I was entering the building…(for all the demonic forces who were present to hear)
“Billy, make sure you let Jesus be your attorney…let him handle all your affairs”
I said…"I will Gates…I promise I will." Marvin was a real, "I got your back my Brother " Home-slice. A next door neighbor type of Human Being, who hung out with you all afternoon in a football jersey and sweat pants. A man who sincerely cared about his closest friends. I loved him and I miss him greatly.
"THE SWEETEST LOVE I EVER SAW”….was between two people who warmed my heart every time I saw them together..TITO JACKSON and his wife, “DEE DEE”.
They just seemed to be two soul mates thrust into an impossibly, overwhelming type of fame. A real-life, modern day Shakespearean tragedy…destined to always be remembered that way for an eternity. Whenever I’d see them, they’d gregariously engage me in a welcoming, joyful conversation joined at the hip. Unlike most Hollywood couples who took every opportunity…to be viewed as individual entities. Whether it was at a birthday party for MJ…or if I was unexpectedly summoned and invited to join them at their restaurant table for a glass of wine. Dee Dee would always have a glowing smile, a mile long, holding on to Tito’s arm…or he’d have his arm slung around her shoulder…naturally….like High school sweethearts most often do. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?? In my distant memory…They will always be just that. The high school lovers of Motown. As a person…Let me say that, Tito is by far the truest gentleman of the Jackson 5…
and for me, “Dee Dee" will always be his golden lady.
STEVIE WONDER…what can I say.
A phenomenal artist who does not possess one iota of any dark, dastardly spirit of jealousy, resentment or envy for anyone’s opportunity, talent, nor their success. I can’t make that statement about many artists I’ve encountered in my lifetime. Steve's a real beacon of positivity and hope. This brother stood up with me as I received my part of the Miracles star on Hollywood Blvd. in 2009, singing quietly (so I would sing with him) and whispering silly jokes about folks into my ear, just to keep me calm & loose. When the autograph session ensued after the award ceremony with the frantic, lingering crowd. Steve's brother Calvin whisked him away into thin air. I'd like to think the two of them left so quickly…as to leave me alone…in a singular, bask of glory. What a memory. I remember back in 1974….as I sat in a long hallway at Crystal Sound Studios in Hollywood, playing my guitar and working out melody ideas for “Love Machine”….Steve comes out of his studio and says “Billy is that you?? I said “Yeah Bruh, I'm just sitting out here, taking a break..while they hook up my mike inside” He slowly makes his way over to where I'm perched…and sit’s next to me on the bench and says…“Man, what the Hell is that you are working on?? I said “It’s called Love Machine” from my new concept album, “City Of Angels”. He suddenly grabbed my shoulder with a strong, attention getting grip…and whispered intently…“Billy if you don’t record that with The Miracles…then make sure you record that masterpiece on yourself!” That’s when I knew I truly had something special….from someone I trusted, explicitly. We all need mentors, teachers and sincere friendships. I mean good folks who truly care about you, simply because you're you. It's a vital need for all of us, in order to make it thru this challenging life we live. Now don't get me wrong…everyone is not going to take to you, no matter how well you treat them. But always remember this..that no one….believe you me…no one is an island. Real friendships are precious and few, but Man can they be rewarding.
Recognize that fact early in life children…and embrace it when it comes my family.