Gladys Knight’s searing version of “Neither One of Us” and Smokey Robinson and newcomer Joss Stone’s cover of the Miracles R&B/pop classic “I Second That Emotion” are among the highlights of the upcoming ABC television special “Motown 45.”
Taped Sunday night at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, the special celebrates Motown Records’ hit-filled legacy, pairing the label’s original artists and contemporary singers with timeless Motown songs.
Co-hosted by Lionel Richie and Cedric the Entertainer, the event sported such notables as Dick Clark, the Backstreet Boys, comedian George Lopez and ’N Sync’s Joey Fatone introducing the various segments.
Though such key Motown players as Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Rick James were missing, the taping still managed to serve as a mini-family reunion. Acts such as Martha Reeves & the Vandellas and Thelma Houston were able to catch up with former labelmates the Four Tops, Commodores and original Supremes Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong, as well as formidable backing band the Funk Brothers.
Performances taped on Sunday included Destiny’s Child’s Kelly Rowland teaming with Wilson and Birdsong on a Supremes medley and with Richie on “Endless Love,” and Michael McDonald covering Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” Nick Lachey and Jermaine Jackson dueted on “I’ll Be There” and the Funk Brothers supported “American Idol” finalist Kimberley Locke on “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” and Gerald Levert on “Do You Love Me.”
Brian McKnight and Macy Gray were on hand to celebrate Marvin Gaye, with the former performing “What’s Going On” and the latter interpreting “Let’s Get It On.” Ashford & Simpson took part in the grand finale, joining McDonald, Knight, Robinson and Stone to perform “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
“I was there from day one,” Robinson said backstage. “To be here celebrating the 45th anniversary of Motown goes beyond all our wildest dreams.” ABC plans to air “Motown 45” in May.