LOS ANGELES — A night filled with familiar old hits and Motown figures brought one brand-new bit of info: Berry Gordy’s long-in-the-works Motown documentary is headed to the Showtime network in April.
The 7,000 guests gathered Tuesday night at the Microsoft Theater for the Grammys’ Motown tribute concert were treated to the first public peek at scenes from “Hitsville: The Making of Motown,” which has been quietly shooting since spring 2017.
The clips, which rolled between Tuesday’s live performances, conveyed tales well known to anyone acquainted with the Motown Records saga: the nurturing of the Supremes from gawky girl group to global superstars, the obstinate creative evolution of Marvin Gaye, the vicious racism encountered by the early traveling Motortown Revues.
But the scenes also promised what looks to be the most modern, stylish Motown documentary yet, bolstered by rare historical footage, interviews with all the key living figures and — perhaps most important of all — complete access to the label’s song catalog.
For most of the L.A. audience, the film clips were likely a fun grace note to the main event at hand: “Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration,” which was being taped for an April 21 airing on CBS.
The three-hour-plus show included performances by Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, John Legend and a closing, 45-minute concert-within-a-concert by Stevie Wonder. With Gordy and Ross seated next to each other and holding court in the front row, the evening amounted to a Detroit homecoming in L.A. for the assembled Motown faithful.
Look for more coverage ahead of the April 21 broadcast.
Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.