Friday, May 25, 2018

Brenda Holloway in London

Brenda Holloway's star burned brightly but fairly briefly during her stay at Motown in the 1960s and for many years she turned her back on performing. Her biggest hit, Every Little Bit Hurts, is a Tamla Motown classic and she recorded several other memorable songs, as well as co-writing You Make Me So Very Happy - later a smash for Blood Sweat and Tears - with her sister Patrice. Today she seems happy with life and came across strongly last night at 229 The Venue in London in a set lasting just over 45 minutes.
Backed by a fairly mediocre band (she insisted on a couple of numbers being restarted) and two blonde backing singers, Brenda, wearing a sparkly long green dress which showed off her curvy figure to the full, got things going with Just Look What You've Done, with its memorable lines about 'turning my dreams to dust' and 'my heart to stone.' Brenda was regarded by Berry Gordy as something of a replacement for Mary Wells after Mary left Motown and the next two numbers, When I'm Gone and Operator, were both covers which, good though they were,  may have hindered rather than helped Brenda's career at the label.
The next song, Reconsider, was unissued at the time, despite its excellence, before being discovered in the nineties. Apparently unsure of the words, Brenda borrowed some reading glasses from a member of the audience but pulled it off well. Next came her first, and most successful, Motown record Every Little Bit Hurts, written by Ed Cobb of the Four Preps (who also wrote Tainted Love). More northern soul excellence followed with Crying Time and Starting The Hurt All Over Again, before Brenda moved on to the ballad You Make Me So Very Happy. After Berry Gordy and Frank Wilson claimed some of the writing credits for Brenda and Patrice's song, Brenda became disillusioned with Motown and her recording career effectively came to an end. Personally I've never liked the song very much, but it should have made her a fortune when it became a rock hit in 1969. To be fair, Brenda sounded great on the song. As an encore she returned to another mid sixties Motown hit, this time I'll Keep On Holding On, originally recorded by the Marvelettes.
It's not often that sixties Motown artists appear in London these days so it was good to see Brenda enjoying herself, even if the band's failings made things a little flat at times. I saw her at the Ponderosa Stomp a few years ago and this was a longer, and more satisfactory set in many ways. Long may she thrive.


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