The Temptations, the Isley Brothers and the Four Tops turned back time, singing and dancing as if in their prime at a reunion of Motown stars.
Honorees Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy attend MusiCares Persons of the Year Honoring Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson at Los Angeles Convention Center on Feb. 3, 2023 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo: Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
The occasion was to honor Motown Records founder Berry Gordy and singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson for their musical achievements and philanthropic efforts as MusiCares Persons of the Year on Friday night, the first time the charitable organization honored two individuals in the same year.
The Detroit natives have been friends for more than 65 years.
“When I first met this man it was the beginning of my dream come true,” Robinson told the crowd at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
“I wanted to be a singer, I wanted to be in show business, I wanted to write songs and make music,” Robinson said. “I never thought it would be possible for me from where I grew up. But then I got there because I met Berry Gordy. He took me under his wing. He is my mentor.”
Gordy later took the stage with Robinson to accept their awards..
“I’m happy to be here with my best friend. Damn,” Gordy said.
Sheryl Crow, John Legend, Mumford & Sons, Dionne Warwick, Brandi Carlisle, Michael McDonald, Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder were among those honoring the 93-year-old Gordy and 82-year-old Robinson two days before the Grammy Awards ceremonies.
“I wouldn’t know music without Motown,” Legend told the crowd.
Gordy and Robinson alternately stood and applauded and clapped along, sometimes singing as well, while the artists sampled the vast Motown catalog.
The Temptations kicked off the 2 1/2-hour concert with a medley of “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “I Can’t Get Next to You” and “My Girl.” Resplendent in red suits and patent leather red shoes, the five-man group’s distinct harmonies were as tight as their choreography.
Gordy leaned over and put his arm around Robinson at their table as the group had the crowd singing along to “My Girl.”
Warwick, who is 82, later sang “My Guy,” the Mary Wells hit written and produced by Robinson on Motown. She and Robinson blew kisses to each other.
Ronald Isley, who is 81, and his 70-year-old guitarist-brother, Ernie, performed “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You),” a hit on Motown’s Tamla label in 1966.
The Four Tops recreated their run of 1960s hits with “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch),” “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “It’s the Same Old Song.” The crowd was up on its feet singing and dancing.
Wonder had the crowd clapping along to his reggae-tinged version of “The Tears of a Clown,” a hit he co-wrote as a teenager with Robinson.
“All of my appreciation, respect, love goes to you, Berry, who thought I couldn’t sing,” Wonder said, drawing laughter. “Smokey, I want to thank you. I can never repay you.”
Carlisle was backed by twin brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth on “Tracks of My Tears,” drawing a standing ovation for the 1965 hit written by Robinson. The trio wore matching silver metallic jackets and black bowties.
Trombone Shorty tore it up on “Shotgun,” the Junior Walker and the All Stars song produced by Gordy in 1965. McDonald earned a standing ovation for his rendition of “Lonely Teardrops,” written by Gordy for Jackie Wilson.
In a pairing of young (28-year-old Sebastián Yatra) and old (66-year-old Rita Wilson), they sang “It Takes Two,” a 1965 hit for Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston on the Tamla label.
Valerie Simpson and Jimmie Allen teamed on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” while Lalah Hathaway was accompanied on piano and vocal by PJ Morton of Maroon 5 for “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.”
In the oddest sighting of the night, Elton John and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi swayed next to each other in the crowd.
The evening closed with sisters Chloe and Halle Berry holding hands with Wonder while singing The Temptations’ hit “Get Ready” along with McDonald, Wilson and the Four Tops, among others.
Now in its 33rd year, the dinner and auction raised money for programs and services supporting musicians in need.