Effort to build an R&B hall of fame fuels Detroit gala

Mary Chapman, Special to The Detroit News
7:01 p.m. EDT August 17, 2016

Fats Domino. Dionne Warwick. Bettye LaVette. Smokey Robinson. These and more than a dozen more performing arts giants will be honored Aug. 21 at what promises to be a toe tapper of a Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame induction ceremony gala and concert. Inductee and former Supreme Mary Wilson will host the black-tie event.

This 4th-annual presentation, taking place at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn, will include performances by The Dramatics featuring Willie Ford, The Fantastic Four, and new inductees The Velvelettes, Eddie “Lonely Girl” Holman, and Eddie “Knock On Wood” Floyd.

The event also will include a tribute for 2016 inductees Prince and Jimi Hendrix.

In addition, the event also is a fundraiser for Lamont Robinson’s yearslong dream of building an interactive 30,000-square-foot Rhythm and Blues Museum in Detroit.

“Dad was a Motown and jazz fanatic, and Mom was gospel. So I got the best of all worlds,” he said. “But then I looked around one day in 2008 and saw there was no museum for the music I truly loved.”

“Rock has one, country music has one. How can we not have a museum for Aretha Franklin?” said Robinson, who lives in Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “People talk about Motown, the greatest music label ever, and there’s rightly a museum for that. But Detroit was turning out music well before Motown.”

Although the R&B museum would also recognize those without Detroit ties, Robinson is adamant that the museum be in the Motor City. “Not only is Detroit the world’s music capital, but Black Bottom and Paradise Valley made this an entertainment mecca. It would be a shame to lose this to another city,” he said.

Local music industry insider Skip Norris has called the project an uphill battle. With the exception of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Norris said cultural institutions are struggling.

“You’re tugging at the same financial strings that fund all those other places, so they’re stressed, too,” he said, acknowledging that the project does have some appeal. “This would put another institution at the trough when there’s probably not enough to feed everyone there right now.”

Robinson said the concept has top-shelf support, including 2016 inductee and former Motown songwriter Mickey Stevenson, who grew up in Black Bottom and calls the proposal an “incredible” idea.”

“I think it’s needed and would be one of the great legacies,” he said.

Right now, Robinson is concentrating on this weekend’s induction event. “Most of the artists or their family members are elated that they’re being inducted for their genre,” he said. “And I’m elated for them.”

The other 2016 inductees are Radio One founder Cathy Hughes and performance luminaries Bootsy Collins, The Royal Jokers, The Falcons, Mack Rice, International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Rena Scott, Sugar Chile Robinson, Wilson Pickett, Little Willie John (The Supremes are being re-inducted in honor of Florence Ballard’s family), veteran music business executive Miller London, Motown producer and talent scout Robert Bateman, , legendary DJ Herb Kent and former Motown publicist Al Abrams. Over the years, some 125 others have been inducted.

Mary Chapman is a Metro Detroit-based freelance writer.

4th Annual Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame

Induction gala and concert

Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn

6:30 p.m. Sun. The red carpet stroll starts at 5 p.m.

Tickets: $25-$75. Call (313) 943-2354

Detroit News

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