Lamont Dozier, Megan Mullins and John Bohlinger.
Lamont Dozier is best known as part of the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting and production team responsible for a ton of Motown. Unless you’ve spent your entire life in a cave, with your fingers firmly planted in your ears, you know his set list:
1. Stop! In the Name of Love
2. Where Did Our Love Go
3. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)
4. My World Is Empty Without You
5. How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You
The challenge arose in that Lamont’s version of these standards strayed far from the Motown arrangements we’re familiar with. My hands naturally drifted toward the changes used in The Supremes’ albums because I could not expunge the Motown arrangements from my subconscious. I was forced to read the entire show. Reading isn’t normally a problem, but my tiny charts were hard to see way down by my feet, and I was singing backgrounds, which meant that I lost the foggy line-of-sight to the charts while on the mic. Fortunately, the gig went well because the strength of these songs pulled through the performance.
There’s an interesting story behind these familiar songs. Lamont had already cut the track for “Where Did Our Love Go” for The Marvelettes, who refused the song. Motown would charge Lamont for the session unless somebody else cut the track. Lamont began the hard sell to other acts. He called The (yet-to-have-a-hit) Supremes and said, “Girls, I have got the song that will make you stars.” They replied, “We already heard about that dog of a song you’ve been pitching around.” Luckily a record was due and the hitless girls did not have the juice to reject the work of Barry Gordy’s top writer. In turn, The Supremes protested with a passive-aggressive performance, turning a complicated vocal line into an angry, repetitive, unison of “baby baby, ooh baby baby.” Lamont maintains that this angry delivery helped make it their first #1 single. Another factor that helped the song’s success was that Lamont had recorded the track in a low key for The Marvelettes. On The Supremes’ earlier work, Diana Ross sang considerably higher, but was forced to rework her style to fit the track. “Where did Our Love Go” introduced the world to the warmer register that Diana Ross has utilized for the rest of her life.
Justin Hayward, Megan Mullins and John Bohlinger.
Again, the omnipresent Moody Blues songs truly comprise part of the soundtrack of our lives. I’ve heard “Nights in White Satin” thousands of times, but I never really studied that signature lick. The first ten times I played it, I knew I didn’t have it quite right until I counted out the beats like a fourth grader. The song is in 6/8, with the signature line beginning on the fourth beat of the second measure. Try playing it without counting and you will want to start early. If you watch the program and it looks like I’m counting, it’s because I am.
Pianist William Brendle (American Idol), Lamont Dozier, Megan Mullins and John Bohlinger.
The Moody Blues, The Supremes, and many others became part of our lives because of the power of the songs, more than their voices or instrumental prowess. If you aspire to become a legend, write some killer lyrics.
John Bohlinger is a Montana native and former Ivy Leaguer who was close to earning a Ph.D. in psychology when he dropped out to pursue a life in music. "The psych background comes in handy when dealing with the music business" John quips. Over his fifteen years in Nashville, John has toured the world, holding down the guitar/mandolin/pedal steel end for over 30 major label artists; he currently leads the band for the hit show Nashville Star, which has moved to NBC. John's songs and playing can be heard in several major motion pictures, major label releases and literally hundreds of television drops. For more info visit johnbohlinger.com