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Remembering Musician Joe Hunter

Joe Hunter, who died last week at the age of 79, was one of the Funk Brothers, the session musicians who helped create the Motown Sound. He could be heard on such hits as "Money" by Barrett Strong, "Shop Around" by The Miracles and "Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas. This interview originally aired on Nov. 18, 2002.


Other segments from the episode on February 9, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 9, 2007: Interview with Al Gore; Obituary for Joe Hunter; Review of the film "The Lives of Others."


DATE February 9, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Al Gore discusses the movie "An Inconvenient Truth"
and global warming

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, TV critic for the New York Daily
News, sitting in for Terry Gross.

It may be difficult to work about global warming if you're freezing your toes
off in Cook, Minnesota, where earlier this week it was 31 below. On the other
hand, just a month ago in Philadelphia it was 62 degrees in January. Of
course, neither one of these weather snapshots provides definitive proof one
way or the other on the subject of climate change and global warming, but
there appears to be a growing consensus.

A new report by the intergovernmental panel on climate change, representing
113 countries, including the United States, pronounced the existence of global
warming unequivocal. The report concludes that it's more than 90 percent
likely that the world's warming climate is not due to natural causes alone and
can be blamed on human activity. After all the studies, policy discussions
and news stories on the subject, the argument that may have provoked the
greatest level of interest was the series of multimedia presentations on
global warming by Al Gore. They were the basis of his movie "An Inconvenient
Truth," which has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary
Feature category. The film is now out on DVD. New York Times film critic
A.O. Scott wrote, "Gore is a surprisingly engaging vehicle for some very
disturbing information."

Here's an example of disturbing information from Gore's companion book, "An
Inconvenient Truth." Gore writes "We are melting the North Polar ice cap and
virtually all of the mountain glaciers in the world. We are destabilizing the
massive mound of ice in Greenland and the equally enormous mass of ice cropped
up on islands in west Antarctica, threatening a worldwide increase in sea
levels of as much as 20 feet."

Terry spoke with Al Gore last year when "An Inconvenient Truth" was released.


Al Gore, welcome back to FRESH AIR. You know, at the beginning of the movie,
you say that you've been trying to tell this story about global warming for a
long time and that you feel as if you've failed to get the message across.
Why was it so difficult as a politician to get the message across?

Former Vice President AL GORE: Well, Terry, I think there are several
reasons. First, it's a complex issue. When you boil it all down, it's fairly
simple, but it does have a lot of moving parts. And the complexity by itself
is an obstacle. Secondly, there's a natural tendency to avoid thinking about
subjects that might involve some psychic pain, and the idea that human
civilization is colliding with the earth's environment is a painful reality.
And, third, it's a new reality. Nothing in our history or culture prepares us
for the new reality, the new relationship between human civilization and the
planet's ecosystem.

We've quadrupled our population globally in the last hundred years, and we've
magnified the power of our technologies thousands of times over. And when you
combine those two elements, 6.5 billion people times incredibly powerful ways
of exploiting nature, and then you mix in a new philosophy of discounting the
future consequences of present actions, it produces this new collision, the
most dangerous part of which is global warming. And so it's hard to absorb
it, but I think it is now beginning to sink in. I think people are coming to
grips with it, and I'm actually becoming optimistic that we're going to
respond in time.

GROSS: Over the years, when you were in politics, you were sometimes mocked
for your environmental positions. George H.W. Bush called you "ozone man"
and said if the Clinton/Gore ticket won, we'll be up to our neck in owls and
out of work. Are there other ways that you think the issue was spun over the
years to make environmentalists and people who are interested in reversing the
effects of global warming seem like kooks?

Vice Pres. GORE: Sure, and that's another reason that it has been difficult
to communicate the truth, the inconvenient truth if you will, about this
planetary emergency. And that is that some interests--political, business and
ideological that strongly resist the truth here--have used every means at
their disposal to confuse people, to put out misinformation. Much in the way
the tobacco industry tried to confuse people about the scientific linkage
after the surgeon general's report in 1964 showing that smoking cigarettes
causes lung disease. They were able to confuse people about the validity of
that science and continue the pattern of abuse for almost four decades. And
basically the same thing has been going on now, and the disinformation, the
ridicule, the intentional confusion, all that's part of a political strategy.

GROSS: You've traveled around different parts of the world looking at the
symptoms of global warming. What's the most disturbing thing that you've seen
in those travels?

Vice Pres. GORE: The melting of the North Pole is one of the most urgent
catastrophes that should be prevented as quickly as we can convince people to
act. It's a fairly thin floating ice cap, and as you know, the Arctic and the
Antarctic are very different. The Arctic is ocean surrounded by land while
the Antarctic is land surrounded by ocean, and that makes all the difference
in the thickness of the ice. It's 10,000 feet thick in Antarctic and less
than 10 feet thick in the Arctic. Much less now. We've lost 40 percent of it
in the last 40 years. And when the ice there melts, there's a dramatic change
in the relationship of the surface of the Earth there to the sun. The ice
reflects 90 percent of the incoming sun's energy like a mirror. But the open
seawater, after it melts, absorbs 90 percent. And that's a phase change. It
sets up a positive feedback loop that magnifies and speeds up the melting

And the North Polar ice cap is in grave danger now. And nearby the great ice
mound of Greenland is under increasing pressure from growing temperatures
also. If that were to melt, it would--or to break up and slip into the sea,
it would raise sea level 20 feet worldwide. The west Antarctic ice shelf, on
the other end of the planet, the other pole, is the part of Antarctica propped
up against islands that allow it to be affected by the warming ocean but also
allow it to raise sea level by 20 feet, again, if it melts or breaks up and
slides into the ocean.

And these are the three areas that many scientists point to as affecting a
so-called point of no return which we need to avoid, because if we cross that
point of no return, then the process of a downward spiral would be
irretrievable. So we have to stop short of that.

GROSS: Let me mention a study that you cite in your documentary and your
book, "An Inconvenient Truth." This is a study from the University of
California at San Diego. A scientist there named Dr. Naomi Oreskes published
in Science magazine a study of every peer-reviewed journal article on global
warming from the previous 10 years, and then in her random sample of 928
articles, she found that no articles disagreed with the scientific consensus
on global warming. Then another study of articles on global warming that were
published in the previous 14 years in the press, specifically published in The
New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times and Wall Street Journal, found that
more than half of those stories gave equal weight to the scientific consensus
and to the view that human beings played no role in global warming.

So just to sum up the scientific journals, the scientists agreed about global
warming, but in these four, you know, major American newspapers, equal weight
was given in half the articles to the opposing view that human beings are not
causing global warming. So what does that say to you? How do you interpret

Vice Pres. GORE: Well, it's astonishing. And that image in the movie and in
the slide show that has preceded the movie is probably the one slide that has
evoked more post-presentation commentary when people come up afterwards and
ask questions than any other. And it does highlight the gulf between science
and popular culture. C.P. Snow wrote years ago about the two cultures. I
guess that gap is even wider now. But I think it illustrates something else
in this instance. It illustrates the vulnerability of our marketplace of
ideas, our public conversation, if you will, to manipulation by the kinds of
techniques that were innovated early in the 20th century and were labeled
propaganda. They're more sophisticated now, they're part of corporate PR
strategies, they have been refined, and the nature of the news media has also
changed, not in all media but in a lot. And, as a result, I think we're more
vulnerable to this kind of manipulation. I think we've seen it in other areas
as well.

And there have been times in our past when we've been vulnerable to being
misled over an extended period, but not like now. And when there's a very
well-funded, determined, unethical corporate campaign of disinformation, it
can have a much larger impact on the impressions put into the minds of the
American people than is healthy in a democracy.

GROSS: When you were running for the presidency in 2000, did your advisers
warn you against talking about global warming in your campaign?

Vice Pres. GORE: Well, you know, some have written that that took place. My
view of that is slightly different. It wasn't a warning, it was their feeling
that every single news cycle every day should be focused on whatever issue
would get the most traction, if you will, the most response and move the
needle in the horse race of the election. And in spite of that, I insisted on
continuing to address this issue, but I have to say that, in one respect, they
were tactically correct because often when I would discuss the issue, the
formal presentation would be completely ignored in favor of some response
during a Q&A afterwards on whatever the horse race issue of the day was. And
over time, that inevitably led to them saying, `Well, look, you know, we tried
this, we tried that, and that's ignored.'

And remember this was at a time when, A, more than half of all the news
articles were saying this issue may not even be real, and, B, my opponent,
then Governor Bush, had publicly pledged to regulate CO2, a pledge that was
broken immediately after the inauguration, but the perception during the
contest itself was that there wasn't that much contrast. Here was a so-called
compassionate conservative who said he cared a lot about global warming and
had pledged to legally force the reductions of greenhouse gases and therefore
why would that be a fit issue for covering the campaign conflict. So to that
extent, it was difficult to have a full-blown contrast presented in the press.

GROSS: I guess I'm wondering if you've lost faith in the political system
when it comes to global warming. If you think that there are certain issues
like global warming that just have no sticking power in the political world
until years and years and years later. Because you were talking earlier about
how it was a very difficult issue to communicate during the 2000 election.
Now you're going back to the very beginning of your political career and
talking about how difficult it was to communicate that issue then even when
you had, you know, a leading scientific expert talking about it. So is
politics a bad arena to talk about an issue like this?

Vice Pres. GORE: It's a tough arena. I haven't lost faith though because I
believe and from my experience I feel as if I know that the political system
shares one thing in common with the climate system. It's nonlinear. It can
appear to move at a glacier's pace, and then after crossing a tipping point,
it can suddenly move rapidly into a completely new pattern. I've seen that
happen, and when enough people absorb this message and understand it and feel
the sense of urgency that it demands, they will in turn demand that
politicians in both parties react accordingly. And I think that there will
come a time when our political system does cross a tipping point, and in that
sense, I still have faith that we will respond. It's just taken 30 years
longer than I thought it would.

BIANCULLI: Al Gore speaking to Terry Gross last year. More after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.


BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2006 interview with Al Gore. His
documentary about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," is out now on DVD.

GROSS: Let me ask you another question in comparing politics and your
political career with the case you make for global warming in your movie "An
Inconvenient Truth." In your political career, you were criticized often for,
you know, rightly or wrongly for being stiff, for not being as communicative
and as lively as you might have been. Your reviews for this movie, the ones
I've seen, largely have been very positive both in terms of the larger issues
that you talk about but also in terms of your presentation. You've been
praised for being lively and funny and engaging, you know, a different
evaluation of you than you typically got, for instance, in your 2000 campaign.
So what do you think has changed?

Vice Pres. GORE: Well, I benefit from low expectations. But I think that
there are two reasons for the comments that you're referring to. Number one,
I think that, in a political campaign, particularly a campaign for president,
the way a candidate's perceived is shaped by the constant attacks by the
opposing side, shaped by the healthy skepticism that viewers and listeners
bring to anything that somebody asking for votes is saying and shaped also by
the necessities of the campaign which really don't allow you to speak about
only one issue but require you to speak, necessarily speak, about a full range
of concerns that the American voters have a right to hear your views on, and
when you move from one to the other, that's a different kind of presentation.
But I think there's a second reason for the comments you mentioned, and that
is I have been through a lot in the last six years. And the old cliche that
what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, actually, I think is sometimes true.
And all of us learn and grow and evolve in our lives and, you know, your
interviews--I'm sure you've got a lot of listeners who contrast the interviews
you do now with ones you did when you first started, and find new texture and
depth, and, you know, that's part of just living our lives.

GROSS: You were recently on "Saturday Night Live." I'm sure a lot of our
listeners saw this. And you were on as the president in a parallel universe
and a parallel universe where you were actually the 43rd president and you
were delivering a speech from the Oval Office about how we've reversed global
warming, how we're dealing with our huge budget surplus and how much the rest
of the world loves America. In fact, let me just play a little clip from
"Saturday Night Live." This is Al Gore.

(Soundbite of "Saturday Night Live")

Vice Pres. GORE: In the last six years, we have been able to stop global
warming. No one could have predicted the negative results of this. Glaciers
that once were melting are now on the attack. As you know, these renegade
glaciers have already captured parts of upper Michigan and northern Maine, but
I assure you we will not let the glaciers win.

Right now in the second week of May 2006, we are facing perhaps the worst gas
crisis in history. We have way too much gasoline. Gas is down to 19 cents a
gallon and the oil companies are hurting. I know that I am partly to blame by
insisting that cars run on trash. I am, therefore, proposing a federal
bailout to our oil companies because, hey, if it were the other way around,
you know the oil companies would help us.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Al Gore recently on "Saturday Night Live."

Al Gore, do you sometimes play the what if game, and do you sometimes play the
game of how the world might have been different if you had become president in

Vice Pres. GORE: Only in an alternate universe. I don't...

GROSS: Yeah, but seriously, do you think about that a lot? Do you play that

Vice Pres. GORE: No. No, I don't. And if you were in my situation, I doubt
you would either. It's just a lot healthier to look forward and try to focus
on the positive things that lie ahead. And, you know, it was a difficult
experience, but not so much for me as it was for the millions of people who
were negatively affected by the policies that have been put in place because
of that election. But I made a choice to uphold the rule of law. After the
Supreme Court decision, in our system there's no intermediate step between the
final Supreme Court decision and violent revolution.

And so I made a decision to support the rule of law and then to go on with my
life and try to find ways to live a positive and useful life, and I'm pleased
to have been able to find ways to serve in other ways. And I'm enjoying them.
I've started a couple of businesses that are quite fulfilling for me, teaching
some. Most of my time is spent delivering my slide show and speaking on the
climate crisis, and it's an increasing part of my time.

GROSS: Al Gore, thank you very much for talking with us.

Vice Pres. GORE: Thank you, Terry.

BIANCULLI: Al Gore speaking to Terry Gross last year. His film "An
Inconvenient Truth" is nominated for an Academy Award as Best Documentary
Feature. It's out now on DVD. I'm David Bianculli and this is FRESH AIR.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Joe Hunter and Jack Ashford of the Funk Brothers
discuss their careers with Motown


This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli.

Today we're remembering the musician who played piano on this and many other
classic Motown sessions.

(Soundbite of "Shop Around")

Unidentified Singer #1: (Singing)
When I became of age, my mother called me to her side
She said, `Son, you're growing up now. Pretty soon you'll take a bride'
And then she said, `Just because you become a young man now
There's still some things that you don't understand now'

Unidentified Backup Singers #1: (Singing)
Mama, mama

Singer #1: (Singing)
`Before you ask some girl for her hand now.'

Backup Singers #1: (Singing)

Singer #1: (Singing)
Keep your freedom for as long as you can now

Singer #1 and Backup Singers #1: (Singing)
My mama told me

Singer #1: (Singing)
You better shop around

Backup Singers #1: (Singing)

Singer #1: (Singing)
Oh, yeah, you better shop around

Backup Singers #1: (Singing)
Shop, shop around

Singer #1: (Singing)

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Pianist Joe Hunter, one of the Motown session players featured in
the documentary "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," died last Friday in
Detroit. He was 79. Hunter was the first artist signed to Motown when Berry
Gordy founded the influential record label. Hunter also was Motown's first
band leader and ended up winning three Grammys for his work with the Funk
Brothers, the backing band that was such a key part of the Motown sound in the
1950s and '60s. They played on the recordings of some of the biggest soul pop
stars of the '60s, such as The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops,
Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson, to name just a few.

Now that Joe Hunter is dead, only five of the 13 Funk Brothers are still
alive. In 2002, when the documentary was released, Terry Gross spoke with two
of them: Joe Hunter, who joined Motown in 1958, and Jack Ashford, who plays
vibes and tambourine and joined the label in 1963. Before we get to Terry's
interview with, let's hear a song from 1963, one which you can really hear
what Joe Hunter's piano work meant to the Motown sound.

(Soundbite of "Heat Wave")

(Soundbite of instrumental music)

Unidentified Singer #2: (Singing)
Whenever I'm with him
Something inside

Unidentified Backup Singers #2: (Singing)

Singer #2: (Singing)
Starts to burnin`
And I'm filled with desire

Backup Singers #2: (Singing)
Ahhh, ahhhh, ahhh

Singer #2: (Singing)
Could it be the devil in me
Or is this the way love's supposed to be

Just like a...

Singer #2 and Backup Singers #2: (Singing)

Singer #2: (Singing)
Burning in my heart

Backup singers #2: (Singing)

Singer #2 (Singing)
I can't keep...

(End of soundbite)


Joe Hunter, you got to Motown at the very beginning. What's the first session
you remember playing on?

Mr. JOE HUNTER: Well, I remember playing on the Marvin Johnson's "Come to
Me." That was the first session that I played on, and later all the way down
to "Shop Around." There was a lot of tunes in between that that never did--it
was just stuck in the can. But there was The Contours' "Do You Love Me" was
one of the more outstanding tunes that I thought would never be a hit. It
became a major hit for those Contours.

GROSS: It's a great recording. Why did you think it wouldn't be a hit?

Mr. HUNTER: Well, because I wasn't used to the kind of accentuations that
were going on, the breaks, the dynamics and whatnot, and it just wasn't my
speed, even though I did them, but it just wasn't my thing. I was more into
the George Shearing area, you know, that kind of jazz music that I loved. And
those little things, little idioms that never did occur to me, but it was
Berry's idea and his idea won over.

GROSS: Do you remember what you played on "Do You Love Me"?

Mr. HUNTER: Oh, sure. A lot of little syncopations, upbeats, downbeats,
beats that we had never heard nobody emphasizing, you know.

GROSS: OK. Well, let's hear the original recording of "Do You Love Me"--this
is The Contours, an early Motown hit; my guest, Joe Hunter on piano.

(Soundbite of "Do You Love Me" by The Contours)

Unidentified Singer #3: You broke my heart, 'cause I couldn't dance. You
didn't even want me around. And now I'm back to let you know I can really
shake 'em down.

(Singing) Do you love me?

Unidentified Backup Singers #3: (Singing) I can really move.

Singer #3: (Singing) Do you love me?

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) I'm in the groove.

Singer #3: (Singing) Now do you love me...

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) Do you love me?

Singer #3 and Backup Singers #3: (Singing) that I can dance?

Singer #3: (Singing) Watch me now.

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) Hey, work, work.

Singer #3: (Singing) Ah, work it out, baby.

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) Work, work.

Singer #3: (Singing) Well, you're driving me crazy.

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) Work, work.

Singer #3: (Singing) With just a little bit of soul now.

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) Work.

Singer #3: (Singing) I can mashed potato.

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) I can mashed potato.

Singer #3: (Singing) I can do the twist.

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) I can do the twist.

Singer #3: (Singing) Now tell me, baby...

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) Tell me, baby...

Singer #3: (Singing) you like it like this?

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) you like it like this?

Singer #3: (Singing) Tell me.

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) Tell me.

Singer #3: (Singing) Tell me. Do you love me?

Backup Singers #3: (Singing) Do you love me?

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Jack Ashford, let's talk about your music. You played vibes as a jazz


GROSS: ...before joining Motown; also did a little work with the tambourine.
How did you end up playing tambourine? I'll tell you, I was listening to some
of the Motown hits, just listening for tambourine, and I found tambourine in a
lot more places than I thought. There are so many tracks where you're kind of
like playing on the same beat as the drums and it's really effective, but I
don't know I ever realized it before.

Mr. ASHFORD: Well, when I first went there, they were limited to tracks, you
know, to record on, and so...

GROSS: Mm-hmm. You could only do like four tracks at a time.

Mr. ASHFORD: ...yes--and so in order to get the instrument--see, when I
started at Motown and started playing vibes was one thing, and they discovered
that I could play tambourine.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ASHFORD: But Marvin Gaye really was interested in my tambourine playing.
So when they would see me live with Marvin and see what I was doing with the
tambourine, that made them very interested in that. So I would have to sit in
the same booth as Benny Benjamin on drums...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ASHFORD: ...and I would use the same mike on the sock cymbal that he was
using as the mike for the tambourine. So in order to balance it, since they
couldn't mix it down once it was recorded that way, I had to move to and fro
space, you know, from the microphone till they got a balance that they thought
was acceptable. But of course, during the course of the song as it was going
down, you know, I'm moving around--I'd get maybe a little closer or play a
little harder--but they couldn't control that, and so whatever they ended up
with was what they were stuck with. And so they liked the feel of it, but it
was kind of loud, if you remember correctly, the earlier Motown things. They
said that they had to go with it.

So they sent it overseas to England and Sir Joseph Blackwood of EMI, who was
going to distribute the Motown product over there, said that--later on he said
that the tambourine was so high he thought it was going to be a disaster. But
when they started playing the Motown product over there, the tambourine was
high, and then everybody across Europe started putting tambourine loud on
their records the way we had ours. And so it made the product a success and
welded my shoes to the Motown family.

GROSS: So that's interesting. Had there been more separation or more tracks
so that you could have been recorded and remixed...

Mr. ASHFORD: Right.

GROSS: know, on a separate track, the tambourine might not have ever
been so prominent.

Mr. ASHFORD: It might not have made it possible for me to be talking to you

GROSS: Can you like tap out some of the beats that you used on the

Mr. ASHFORD: Let me see.

(Soundbite of rhythmic tapping)

Mr. ASHFORD: That's it.

GROSS: That sounds complicated for a tambourine.

Mr. ASHFORD: Well, the tambourine will be easy, but controlling those
cymbals on there so that they don't get in the way. I mean, the tambourine's
one thing, but controlling the cymbals is another ball game.

GROSS: Now, Joe Hunter, let me get back to you. Joe Hunter is a keyboard
player and was a member of the Funk Brothers, the Motown house band. The
records at Motown, there was a very elaborate process for producing records.
There were I think weekly meetings that Motown had in which it was decided at
this meeting which new song was going to be done by which group and who was
going to produce it.

Mr. HUNTER: It wasn't always decided. They would have somebody in mind,
some artist or some group, and it ended up being--the song ended up going to
another group. It's whoever sound the best on it. They might test two or
three different artists on one band track. And you could say the...

GROSS: So it be like a competition.

Mr. HUNTER: A competition, that's right. Whoever did it best and whoever
they decided. They had a woman up there--What's her name?--Billie Jean.

Mr. ASHFORD: Billie Jean Brown.

Mr. HUNTER: Yeah. Yeah. She was their...

Mr. ASHFORD: Quality control.

Mr. HUNTER: ...quality control, and she had a good ear for music. And a lot
of times she would pick and they would say, `Yes. Oh, yes.' Then they also
had councils at high schools they would go in testing records on and the
council would vote a certain way. And they went with that, too.

GROSS: And when you were performing on a track, were you given like an
arrangement to play or did they just tell you to play what you thought would

Mr. HUNTER: Well, most of the time we were given a chord sheet and sometime
they would tell us to put our own feelings in these chord sheets. They would
have notations on there. And sometime I would say that the band made up
arrangements, really. About time we get through adding what we had, the
tambourine man, maybe they might have somebody to sing some of the licks in
the same groove and phrases that the drummer did, and so forth and so on, and
build the song and arrangement around that. And then later on came in some
good arrangers, no doubt about--Paul Riser and Wade Marcus and a whole lot of
'em, Willie Shorter--whole lot of good arrangers came in. Willie started
arranging for horns and strings and everything. But the first was just a
chord sheet type of thing.

GROSS: Do you have a favorite track of the ones you played on, a favorite
track for what you were playing?

Mr. HUNTER: Yeah. Well, the "Pride and Joy" I did what I wanted to do on
that. Now we'll see. I played the piano, I started the introduction off by
myself. Later on they added some drums and some bass to the introduction and
made it like--you know, they could gimmick around and make it. But "Pride and
Joy" was one of the tunes, the band track, that I really did what I wanted to
do. That's because really Marvin had played drums with me the night before.
And I said, `When we go in the studio again, I'm going to do my thing.'

GROSS: Well, why don't we hear "Pride and Joy," the Marvin Gaye hit? And
this is my guest, Joe Hunter, at the piano.

(Soundbite of "Pride and Joy")

Mr. MARVIN GAYE: (Singing)
You are my pride and joy.
And I just love you, little darlin',
like a baby boy loves his toy.
You've got kisses sweeter than honey.
And I work every day to give you all my money
That's why you are my pride and joy.

And I'm telling the world you're my...

Unidentified Backup Singers #4: (Singing)
Pride and joy.

Mr. GAYE: (Singing)

Backup Singers #4: (Singing)
Pride and joy.

Mr. GAYE: (Singing)
I believe I'm your...

Backup Singers #4: (Singing)
Baby boy.

Mr. GAYE: (Singing)

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: We'll continue our 2002 interview with Joe Hunter and Jack Ashford
after a break. Joe Hunter died last week. This is FRESH AIR.


BIANCULLI: ...interview with Joe Hunter and Jack Ashford, two members of the
Funk Brothers, the backing band behind so many unforgettable Motown hits. Joe
Hunter died last Friday in Detroit.

Motown founder Berry Gordy always kept close tabs on his session musicians to
prevent their doing work for other labels. Joe Hunter told Terry about a time
he got around that.

Mr. HUNTER: I wasn't ducking. I went over to Chicago and I did a wrong
thing. I took some of the Motown band and we cut Johnny Lee Hooker "Boom Boom
Boom." And it was different places that I went with different people, you
know. Actually, I didn't come back and tell him. I think it was some of the
people--you know, that dog-eat-dog people that come back and say, `Hey, will
you cash my check?' And he says, `Oh, you've been over to Vee Jay's. Well,
how did you get there?' `Well, Joe Hunter took us there,' you know. It was
somebody trying to get favors from Berry Gordy.

GROSS: So how were you punished?

Mr. HUNTER: No, he made me stand up one time at a company meeting. He told
me I was a company man, and he told everybody to concentrate and look at me,
says he's taking our sound over to Chicago. `I'm not taking your song, they
just pay good money. Curtis Mayfield and all them guys over there in Chicago
put me on some commercials and whatnot, and Jerry Butler, you know.' And
embarrassed me more so. He says, `I'm going to forgive you this time, but
don't do it no more.' But I did it again.

GROSS: So did you both feel that Motown wasn't giving you quite enough to
demand the kind of exclusivity that they wanted?

Mr. ASHFORD: I'm sorry, we're on the radio. No. No. No, but I'll go back
to what I said. It was up to each individual that if he wanted to go out and
explore, that was only right.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. ASHFORD: I mean, you know, you do it, but the talent was given to you.

GROSS: You know, you both come from jazz backgrounds and then, you know,
ended up playing on Motown soul sessions. Did you like the recordings when
you were doing them? I mean, did you--it wasn't necessarily what you were
used to hearing or doing. Did you automatically have a taste for it?

Mr. HUNTER: Oh, yeah, definitely. I enjoyed it, listening back to what we
had did, you know. I enjoyed it very much.

GROSS: And, Jack Ashford?

Mr. ASHFORD: I had found it difficult at first making that transition
because I was still jazz influenced. And the simplicity that was required to
work at Motown, I would forget it sometime. And I would just put extensions
on chords and augment the chords and enhance the chords. And Earl Van Dyke
would be sitting over there breaking his face up looking up at me, you know,
because we could always see one another. And I would be in the middle of the
floor facing the grand piano, Earl would be shaking his head and looking up in
the air like somebody shot him or something whenever I'd put a flat five on a
chord or something. He said, `Oh, man, you know, what is that?' So he said,
`No, keep it simple.' And after I adjusted to that, you know, keeping it
simple, it was cool, you know.

But it was very simple. I mean, the chords were rudiments. There was nothing
difficult with the chords until Ashford and Simpson started coming in there.
And then that required a different type of approach. And Wade Marcus, the
arranger, these guys were--even Paul, you know, they started to stretch out
creatively with their chords, which is what really established the difficulty
of people duplicating what we did because there were great jazz backgrounds
behind these records that were coming out, "Reach Out" and "Ain't No Mountain
High Enough" and things like that. I mean, these required somebody with some
skills to play, you know. And so, therefore, it was a challenge. So it grew
into the challenge and fortunately, I was able to last long enough there to
make that transition.

GROSS: I'm wondering what it means to each of you to have this reunion movie
and see Dees' "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" in which you get to play
with, you know, the other surviving Motown musicians and do new versions of
the old songs?

Mr. HUNTER: No, it's a real great pleasure to do that, but like I said once
before, we have a producer that wants some of the things originally just like
they were. However, there are some things that we add to it when we add horns
and strings and whatnot on certain tunes. But there are certain tunes that's
got to be exactly like they were or else we got a complaint coming like they
were back there in the early '60s. Yeah.

GROSS: Jack Ashford, what does it mean to you to be reunited, you know, for
this movie?

Mr. ASHFORD: It was just a wonderful experience because these are the best
musicians I've ever worked with in my life. And I missed them so much, you
know. We shared a lot of wonderful things together during our time at Motown.
You know, when you're making history, you don't know it because you're living
it. In retrospect, when I look back on things that happened, you know, had it
not been for Motown, I would have never met Joe. And he's been such an
addition to my life and Benny and all those guys. And to see these fellows
again in 2000 in that basement, that little basement, we would all--after we
got past the tears and everything, we had to wonder would we still sound the
same, you know. It was a lot of question there. And after they kicked the
first song off, I said, `Oh, my God, we still sound the same.' So I said,
`Well, we joined at the hip so we better hope it pays off because we can't get
rid of each other.' So--but it worked, you know, and I think if you heard the
CD and you remember back in the day and play those records, it sounds the

GROSS: I want to thank you so much, both of you, for talking with us. Thank

Mr. ASHFORD: Oh, we thank you so much for having us.

Mr. HUNTER: Thank you.

BIANCULLI: Jack Ashford and Joe Hunter speaking with Terry Gross in 2002.
They were park of The Funk Brothers, the Motown session band behind so many
classic hits of the 1960s. Joe Hunter died last week in Detroit. He was 79.

(Soundbite of "Come and Get These Memories")

Unidentified Singer #4 and Unidentified Backup Singers #5: (Singing)
Lover you've gone from me
And left behind so many memories

Singer #4: (Singing)
Here's your old friendship ring
I can't wear it no more
Here's your old love letters
I can't read them any more

Singer #4 and Backup Singers #5: (Singing)
Lover you've gone from me
And left behind so many memories

Singer #4: (Singing)
Here's that old teddy bear

Backup Singers #5: (Singing)
Come and get it.

Singer #4: (Singing)
That you won for me at the state fair
Here's some old Valentine cards

Backup Singers #5: (Singing)
Come and get them

Singer #4: (Singing)
Give them to your new sweetheart

Singer #4 and Backup Singers #5: (Singing)
Lover you've gone from me
And left behind so many memories
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Backup Singers #5: (Singing)
Come and get them

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Coming up, David Edelstein reviews the new film "The Lives of
Others." This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Film critic David Edelstein on Academy Award nominee
"The Lives of Others"
DAVID BIANCULLI, guest host:

The political thriller "The Lives of Others" centers on the Stasi, the secret
police unit founded in East Germany in 1950 with the help of the Soviet Union.
Aided by citizen informers, the Stasi spied on, interrogated and imprisoned
suspected dissidents until 1989. "The Lives of Others" was a hit in Germany
and a nominee for this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Film
critic David Edelstein has a review.

Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: The center, the fulcrum of "The Lives of Others" is the
actor Ulrich Muhe, who plays Wiesler, a crack interrogator for the East German
secret police, the Stasi. The movie is set in the mid '80s, five years before
the fall of the Berlin Wall, and it turns on Wiesler's surveillance of a pair
of national celebrities, a playwright called Dreyman, played by Sebastian
Koch, and his dishy actress girlfriend Crista-Maria, played by Martina Gedeck.

Dreyman is said to be loyal to the state. In fact, he's called the only
nonsubversive East German writer still taken seriously in the West. And yet
Wiesler thinks there's something fishy about him. He says that Dreyman should
be investigated, and he's a bit surprised when his suggestion is accepted with
enthusiasm. Only later will he discover that the operation was fast-tracked
because the minister of culture wants the playwright's actress girlfriend for
himself. And at that point, Wiesler, the good East German, begins to wake up
to the horror of what he does.

The first film by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, "The Lives of Others," is
a brilliant piece of construction. At once a Kafkaesque tearjerker and tragic
farce. What lifts it to an even higher realm is Muhe's performance, which is
amazingly self-contained and amazingly expressive. There isn't an ounce of
fat on his body or in his acting. He's pared himself down to a pair of eyes
that prowl the faces of his character's countrymen for signs of independent
thinking. But if Wiesler has shed all traces of nonessential humanity, he has
just enough empathy to burrow into his prisoners' heads and reduce them over
time to cringing wrecks. Belief in the mission of the German Democratic
Republic, and the resourcefulness of its enemies, keeps him patient and
centered in his labors. Before his current operation, it hardly seemed to
matter that his most intimate exchanges were with the people whose lives he
destroyed. But now, as he eavesdrops on the playwright and the actress, in a
dark bare attic above their apartment, he's slowly drawn out of himself and
into the lives of others.

Movies can appeal to our best, and worse, instincts. It's when they appeal to
both at once that they get really interesting. The genius of "The Lives of
Others" is that even though we fear for the freedom of the vulnerable
couple--we've seen how the Stasi breaks spirits, along with bodies--it's a
kick on some level to watch Wiesler install his bugs with such marvelous
efficiency. It gives us a naughty, voyeuristic charge to listen in, along
with the Stasi, to their lovemaking, and to scrutinize their mundane
conversations for signs of treason. In a culture in which there's no sphere
of privacy, any stray complaint can furnish proof of disloyalty. The actress,
Crista-Maria, is in the scariest place. Her stage career could end abruptly
if she doesn't put out for the cultural commissar. And Gedeck, the winsome
star of "Mostly Martha," takes the the actress's indecisiveness to operatic

Ultimately, of course, we root for Wiesler's conscience to thaw, for him to
keep this couple safe. Yet the movie's most surprising, and cruelest irony,
is that whenever he brings himself to do something decent, it rebounds on the
people he seeks to protect. That's the black farce part of "The Lives of
Others," that in a system that perverts the most ordinary interactions, few
good deeds go unpunished.

The longish denouement takes place years after the main action and is clearly
designed to soften the blow. I found it a tad corny, but most people I know
think it's the highlight of the movie. What's unarguable is that it's a
relief. After watching truth and justice turned upside down and inside out,
there's a need to see a moral order reestablished; to see that what goes
around, comes around; to see that "The Lives of Others" have not been
sacrificed in vain.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.


BIANCULLI: FRESH AIR is now available as a podcast on our Web page,

For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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