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Diana Ross As Billie Holiday

The following is Part III of Breaking The Motown Sound Barrier Series. If you haven’t read Part I, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, click on to https://artiewayne.wordpress.com/2006/08/14/breaking-the-motown-sound-barrier-aint-no-mountain-high-enough/

If you haven’t read Part II, “What’s Goin’ On?”, click on to https://artiewayne.wordpress.com/2006/09/23/breaking-the-motown-sound-barrier-part-two-in-the-series-whats-goin-on/

Part III

In 1972, Ed Silvers, President of Warner Brothers music was losing his patience with me because he thought I was spending far too much time at Motown. Although I was getting our songs covered by some of their biggest artists, they were only album cuts. Ed was convinced that I would never get a single released by them. I didn’t say much, but I had spent over a year infiltrating the company, and I knew it was just a matter of time before I scored big with them!

I started to notice a change at the company when CEO Berry Gordy, Jr. became interested in producing movies. When production costs soared, record production budgets were cut and fewer records were released. I remember hanging out at Motown one day when I ran into producer and song writer, Michael Masser. He played me a song he had written with Ron Miller and produced on Diana Ross, that was being canned again! When he played me “Touch Me In The Morning”, my mouth dropped open! I couldn’t believe such a phenomonal record could be in the can for over a year, but Berry had his own plans for Diana. He and Paramount pictures had started production on “Lady Sings The Blues” and he was determined to make Diana a movie star!

For the first time, I heard complaints from usually loyal employees about all the money that was being wasted on Diana’s film. I heard that Berry had shot a scene for the film using an integrated chorus line at the Cotton Club, which had to be reshot with only Blacks to maintain historical accuracy. This mistake cost $50,000! Athough the record company was still on top, it couldn’t keep absorbing such costs without suffering in the process.

The only new artists who were given the “Motown Push” were the Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson who now was having hits as a single artist. I knew at this point that the only way I could have a chance for a hit with this company was to get a cover by the Jacksons or Michael. There was only one staff writer at Warner Brothers music who could write in a classic R+B style, George Clinton, Jr. ( not the lead singer of Parlement, but the one who later scored the three Austin Powers movies.) The two producers who loved Georges writing the most were Jerry Marcellino and Mel Larson, who just had big hits with 12 year old Michael on “Rockin’ Robin” and “Little Bitty Pretty One”. “Ben”, from the movie of the same name was racing up the charts and Berry Gordy asked each of his producers to start recording new sides with him.

I sat with Jerry and Mel and we talked about what kind of song they should record with Michael. I suggested A Christmas song…one so commercial that it could be the follow up to, “Ben”. When I saw their eyes light up, I told them that George Clinton, Jr. and I had started such a song! When they asked to hear it, I told them we were still working on it ( when in fact we hadn’t even started! ) I couldn’t tell them the title (’cause there wasn’t any!) I did tell them, however, that it was a true story of how my girlfriend left me out in the cold like the last tree in a lot which was left unsold on Christmas eve. They freaked out and said they had to have the finished song by Monday. I said, “No problem”

I called George, who knew nothing about any of this as soon as I got back to my office. He couldn’t believe I’d told them we’d have a finished song to them by monday, when it was friday and we hadn’t even started it! Saturday morning we met at my office, which was on Hollywood Boulevard across from Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It was the middle of summer, about 90 degrees, but we had to get in a Christmas Mood. As I told George my sad story, I started throwing Ivory Snowflakes around the room…and after a few hours we had the verse and chorus of, “Little Christmas Tree”

Little Christmas Tree

words and music by George Clinton, Jr. and Artie Wayne

I watch the snowflakes fall against my window pane

and wonder if you are watching snowflakes too?

I take a walk downtown to where you used to meet me

There’s joy everywhere but all that’s waiting there…is just a

Little Christmas Tree..Lookin’ sorta’ sad and lonely just like me

No one seems to care… They just went away and left him standing there

All alone on Christmas Eve!

Copyright 1972/ 2006 by Warner Brothers Music

On Monday morning George did a piano voice demo, and I got it to Jerry and Mel that afternoon. They loved it so much that they knocked one of their own songs off the date and cut ours on thursday! I was almost in tears when I heard the finished record the following week with the news that it was being considered for the follow-up to “Ben”, which had just hit number one! You can imagine how I felt a few weeks later when Berry decided not put out any follow up to Oscar nominated “Ben”, until the Academy Awards were given out…after Christmas! A few days later I came up with a plan and presented it to Motown. Put 2 albums worth of previously recorded Christmas songs by all of their hit artists along with a new song that Marvin Gaye recorded and of course, Michael Jackson’s, “Little Christmas Tree”. I’m proud to say that “A Motown Christmas” has sold many times platinum over the years…but there was a dark cloud  loomng on the horizon!

( To Be Continued)

Copyright 2006 by Artie Wayne

To hear a sample of Michael Jackson’s, “Little Christmas Tree” from “A Motown Christmas”, just click on to http://www.amazon.com/Motown-Christmas-Various-Artists/dp/B00000JPBZ/sr=1-1/qid=1165772884/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/105-5725259-3053219?ie=UTF8&s=music

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In 1973, I accompanied one of our Warner Brothers staff songwriters, George Clinton Jr. [who went on write the score for three “Austin Powers” movies], to the Tokyo Music Festival. It was my first trip to Japan, and I was impressed how well organized the large masses of people were. Over the years my heavy workload, beautiful women and other excesses used up too much time and too many emotions. I knew I had to find a way to learn how to really focus.

When I got back to the states, I decided to look into deep relaxation techniques and self- hypnosis. I went to see my Chiropractor and friend, Dr. Floyd Taylor who had developed remarkable physical, mental and spiritual methods of healing after his plane was shot down in World War Two. Over time, and through much pain, he was able to correct his bone structure and musculature, which left him bent over and unable to walk. His super-posture and confident stride was proof positive that his methods work. He not only told me that deep relaxation and self-hypnosis could help attain my goal to focus, it could help the severe back pain I suffered from congenital scoliosis. He said I could learn to go below the pain level and function better. He also mysteriously hinted that the deeper I went, the more “things” I would discover.

My equally psychically adventuresome friend, Patti Dahlstrom [who introduced me to Dr.Taylor], was just as fascinated with the possibilities of self-hypnosis as I was. We both took private lessons from Dr. Taylor’s friend, Henry Mundt, a member of the Society of Ethical Hypnotists. I was helped immediately by the relaxation techniques he taught me especially “ The 2-2-5 “ a simple breathing exercise that I continue to use everyday. Here are the simple steps Hank Mundt taught me.

First…in a quiet, semi-darkened room with your eyes closed, lie down on your back on a bed or a couch or sit up in a straight chair with your feet flat on the floor, palms upward.

1. [Inhale] hold your breath for a count of Two………1…………….2………….[exhale]

[Inhale] hold your breath for a count of Two………1…………….2………….[exhale]

[Inhale] this time hold your breath for a count of Five
1………….2………..3…………4…………5

[Exhale] then repeat the sequence called “Two–Two–Five” again

[Inhale] 1…2 [Exhale]… [Inhale] 1…2 [Exhale]…

[Inhale] 1…2…3…4…5 [Exhale]

2. visualize a flight of stairs. Starting at the number 100, count backwards slowly to the number 1, seeing each number as you descend.

3. When you reach the bottom Then say,” Positive thinking brings results I desire (five times) Then say, “My creative forces find easy expression” (five times). Take a deep breath and say each line five more times.

When you’ve finished, visualize taking an elevator up to the place where you started.

In less than 24 hours, I had a chance to put what I learned to a practical test. Saturday morning, I had an appointment to co-write a song with my Friend WB Staff writer Alan O’Day [“Undercover Angel”, “Angie Baby”]. After spending the night breaking up with my girl. I didn’t feel very creative, but we had a title that begged to be written,” Flashback”.
Usually it took a little time before I could write about a hurtful situation…but I had an idea. If I could hypnotize myself and go below the pain in my back…why couldn’t I hypnotize myself and go below the pain in my heart? And write about it!

While Alan, skeptically but quietly watched I did couple of 2-2-5s, went down 100 steps backwards …then repeated, “Positive thinking bring results I desire…Positive thinking brings results I desire…My creative forces find easy expression…My creative forces find easy expression.”I kept repeating the phrase for about 10 minutes Alan was as surprised as I was when I came out of my altered statewith the lyric to the entire first verse and chorus intact…

I wake up in a cold sweat to a clock that says it’s only 3 AM

Thinking that I touched you when I really only dreamed of you again

I’m clinging to your pillow, like a drowning man would hold on and I

Feel a flood of memories rushing in…and I

FLASHBACK…Back to the time you were mine and we lived in a love song

FLASHBACK…Chasin’ the sun, we would run with a dream we could grow on

Everything that we touched turned to love!

Alan started writing an incredible melody and a few days later we got together again. I put myself back under and a few hours later our song was finished!

My cigarette has burned down to my finger and it brings me back to now

And I’m searching through the ashes for the answers to the where, the why and how

Did I ask for too much lovin”? Did you want too much freedom?

Did we both want more than Heaven would allow?

FLASHBACK…Back to the time you were mine and we lived in a love song

FLASHBACK…Chasin’ the sun, we would run with a dream we could grow on

Everything that we touched turned to love!

Summer nights runnin’ in the rain…

Summer Nights spinnin’ in my brain…and I

FLASHBACK…Back to the time you were mine and we lived in a love song

FLASHBACK…Chasin’ the sun, we would run with a dream we could grow on

Everything that we touched turned to love!

Copyright 1973/ 2006 – Warner Brothers music/ Sashay Music

If you’d like to hear “FLASHBACK” just click onto http://artiewayne.com/music/flashback.mp3