Motown, one of the most recognizable record labels in the world, is set to be honored at the prestigious Carnegie Hall, Thursday, February 9 at 8 p.m. EST. The star-studded event, hosted by CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien, will include performances by a host of Motown’s golden-era, legendary artists and others whose music reflects the label’s lasting influence.
Ray Chew, current musical director of FOX’s "American Idol," serves as the musical director for the evening and sat down with Sister 2 Sister to talk about how great it is for Motown to receive such a tribute.
Kia: Why is Motown so significant in American pop culture?
Ray: Motown is so important to American culture because it is the musical ambassador of the world. Motown’s artists and brand are iconic. Motown’s music is timeless.
Kia: Motown’s label boats over a 50 year legacy! Do you think it receives the credit it deserves or is this why the Carnegie Hall event is so huge?
Ray: Both! Motown has received some credit and deserves more. People all over the world know the Motown hits! Motown songs are performed all over the world by various artists in their own language. Everybody knows the music!
Kia: As the musical director for this event, what do you want the public to learn about the music of Motown?
Ray: I want people to walk away feeling good and singing! So many of these songs strike a wonderful cord and touch people. The event is at such an iconic venue! There is not a lot of representation of this type of music there. We appreciate that! We also made the ticket prices affordable so people could come out. We want to make sure the community comes out.
Kia: You were quoted as saying this event is a “true tribute in celebration of the music.” Please explain.
Ray: With the help of the artists performing, we are going to navigate through the Motown storyline how it was intended. Artists performing include: Dionne Warwick, Martha Reeves, Boyz II Men, BeBe Winans, Melba Moore, Kindred The Family Soul and Paul Shaffer.
Kia: In your words, what is Motown’s secret to success?
Ray: Motown nurtured their artists. They provided everything you needed—choreographers, staff, vocal instructions and PR people—a one stop. No one else was quite doing it that way. Motown artist were uniquely presentable—well groomed. You really don’t see that now a days. Motown was unique in that regard.
Kia: During its golden era, Motown was legendary for artist development as you discussed. In today’s social media bubble where stars are basically doing their own PR and branding, how does Motown’s golden touch stay relevant in today’s changing music industry?
Ray: Motown can now use modern apparatus’ provided to engage fresh and new opportunities. The doors are wide open! Also, new management can give a fresh point of view.
Kia: Speaking of new management, Ne-Yo has recently been named Senior VP of A&R for Motown in addition to signing a recording deal. What does this mean for Motown?
Ray: It’s a lift for Motown! Ne-Yo is a great song writer. He can give Motown a fresh point of view. It’s a great move!
Kia: We recently lost a “giant” in Black entertainment: Don Cornelius. How does his legacy tie into Motown?
Ray: Don Cornelius gave Motown a platform to present their artist—a national stage. In the ’70s, "Soul Train" was pretty much the only show we had. He did a wonderful thing!
Kia: Who is your favorite Motown artist and why?
Ray: Stevie Wonder…because his body of work spans decades and he is still doing music. Of all the artists present during the 50s Stevie is really going strong!
Kia: You know Sister 2 Sister readers want to know about your work as the Musical Director for "American Idol". How did you land that gig?
Ray: My work with "Showtime at the Apollo" and other projects really got me there. Idol is unique in that you have to have history working with talent on a big state at a big level. I am blessed and pleased to participate.
Kia: With all these music shows popping up like"X Factor" and "The Voice", what does "American Idol" have that they don’t?
Ray: "Idol" is the first of the big music shows! It has the best talent and the best production. The other shows aspire to be like "American Idol."
Kia: Good luck with the event – Carnegie Hall Presents: A Tribute To The Music Of Motown
Ray: Thank you! Please come out Thursday, February 9 at 8 PM. Tickets are affordable! Don’t miss it and don’t wait because it will sell out!