Motown's unsung female trio finally gets acclaim
This March 12, 2013 photo show The Andantes, from left, Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow-Tate and Louvain Demps posing during a visit to Motown Historical Museum in Detroit. In their 70s, the unsung backing group who sang on thousands of Motown songs is finally getting acclaim for its contributions to the ground-breaking, chart-topping music made in Detroit in the 1960s and early '70s before the label moved to Los Angeles. The trio gathered recently to see the exhibit, “Motown Girl Groups: The Grit, the Glamour, the Glory.” The Andantes are featured, with equal billing, alongside the Supremes, Vandellas, Marvelettes and Velvelettes. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
DETROIT (AP) — More than 40 years have passed since the recording of Marvin Gaye's "Save the Children," but a replay of the song in the studio where it was recorded compressed time and brought tears to the eyes of Louvain Demps.
Demps was no mere fan visiting what's now the Motown Historical Museum. She was one of the women singing the angelic, high harmonies on the recording — and hearing it in Hitsville USA's Studio A was too much.
"It's my heart, it's my heart," she said.
For Demps and her fellow Andantes, Jackie Hicks and Marlene Barrow-Tate, moments like these have been private, since the wider world knew only their voices, not their faces. But now in their 70s, the unsung backing group who sang on thousands of Motown songs is finally getting acclaim for its contributions to the groundbreaking, chart-topping music made in Detroit in the 1960s and early '70s before the label moved to Los Angeles.
The trio gathered recently to see the exhibit, "Motown Girl Groups: The Grit, the Glamour, the Glory," which will run through the summer. The Andantes are featured — with equal billing — alongside the Supremes, Vandellas, Marvelettes and Velvelettes.
The joyous but rare reunion was made possible by a sad event the day before: the funeral of former Miracles member Bobby Rogers. For the Andantes, it made their meeting more poignant.
"It is unfortunate that so many are gone and thank God that we are still here — all of us — to be able to see this and see our dream come true," said Barrow-Tate, who still lives in Detroit, as does Hicks. The two are retired, but Demps, who lives near Atlanta, still sings solo or with others.
The Andantes were the go-to backup singers for most Motown artists, including Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops and the girl groups themselves. "Save the Children" came from Gaye's "What's Going On," one of Motown's greatest — and last — albums recorded in Detroit. The Andantes sang backup on many of the record's cuts — including the title track — and even traveled with Gaye to his hometown of Washington, D.C., in 1972 to perform the disc in its entirety at the Kennedy Center.
Motown Museum officials say the trio, almost always anonymously, sang on more songs than any other group at Motown. They were the female and vocal equivalent to the Funk Brothers, the label's house band that itself was largely anonymous in its time but gained acclaim through the 2002 documentary film, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown."