Celebrating the King of Pop, Godfather of Soul and more

Nathan Owens
Nathan Owens brings “Pop, Rock & Soul” to MontBleu on Jan. 13-14.

Starting off the year on the good foot, MontBleu Theatre will host two performances of Nathan Owens and Steve Owens present “Pop, Rock & Soul — A Tribute to Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and James Brown.” There will be some Prince, too, the bandleader added.

“Everywhere I go, it’s a party,” Nathan Owens told Tahoe Onstage. “There is audience participation, with a lot of energy from beginning to end. We open with the Four Tops, and that gets everybody going.”

Based in San Diego, Owens brings his production to Lake Tahoe about once a year. “Pop, Rock & Soul” most recently appeared last October at Baldini’s in Sparks.

There are 13 performers in the show, including Bruce Dorsey, who emulates Michael Jackson, Leah Sweet (Tina Turner), Samantha Richardson (Aretha Franklin) and Timothy Patterson (James Brown). Owens will step out from behind the keyboards, strap on a guitar and play some Prince solos.

The shows will be on Friday and Saturday, starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Owens was asked to list his most influential Motown artists. Although some of them didn’t specifically record with the Detroit record label, “If you were a black artist, you were called Motown,” Owens said.

Nathan Owens’ Devine Nine
(In no particular order)
1 – The Temptations. Featuring five male singers with tight choreography, the Temptations began recording with Motown in 1960, the year after the Motor City label started. The “Classic Five” members were Eddie Kendricks, David Ruffin, Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams and Paul Williams, along with Dennis Edwards who later replaced Ruffin, each inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with Dennis Edwards. Tahoe Onstage favorite tune: “My Girl.”

2 – The Four Tops. Among the vanguard of the early Motown sound, the quartet featured baritone Levi Stubbs. The band continues to perform with original member Abdul “Duke” Fakir. Tahoe Onstage favorite tune: “Bernadette.”

3 – The Spinners. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, the Spinners (first called The Domingos) were formed by a group of friends from a Detroit housing project called Herman Gardens. It still performs with original member Henry Fambrough. Tahoe Onstage favorite tune: “The Rubberband Man.”

4 – Gladys Knight. The “Empress of Soul” greatest fame was with Gladys Knight & the Pips, which toured as an opener for Diana Ross and The Supremes. Gladys Knight & the Pips reportedly was fired from the tour because it often stole the show. Tahoe Onstage favorite tune: “Do You Love Me Just A Little, Honey.”

5 – Stevie Wonder. Tahoe Onstage writer Spencer Kilpatrick describes the first time he played a Stevie Wonder record at age 16: “With the opening vocal run of ‘Hey Love’ I was putty; I was broken; I was fixed; I was a hormone-filled sack of goose-bumps. At not even three minutes long, ‘Hey Love’ taught me what soul was. Tahoe Onstage favorite (Motown) tune: “Uptight.”

6 – Michael Jackson. “The King of Pop’s” recording career started on Motown with the Jackson 5 (brothers Michael, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon). His legacy and influence is unmatched. The album “Thriller” sold 65 million times, and videos from that album revolutionized the medium. Tahoe Onstage favorite tune: “Billie Jean.”

7 – Sly and the Family Stone. The San Francisco band changed music. Bay Area critic Joel Selvin wrote, “There are two types of black music: Black music before Sly Stone and black music after Sly Stone.” The funk pioneers are ranked No. 43 as Rolling Stone’s Greatest Bands of All Time. Tahoe Onstage favorite tune: “If You Want Me to Stay.”

8 – Wilson Pickett. After several years in the music business, the Alabama native finally broke out in 1965 with “In The Midnight Hour,” recorded at Stax Records studio in Memphis. Tahoe Onstage favorite tune: “Funky Broadway.”

9 – Jackie Wilson. The original Motown artist, Jackie Wilson’s first hit “Lonely Teardrops” was written by Berry Gordy before he started the record company. Wilson helped transform do-wap into soul music. Wilson was an early TV star, appearing on “Shindig,” Hullabaloo,” “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “American Bandstand.” Tahoe Onstage favorite tune: “Stop Doggin’ Me Around.”

  • Pop, Rock & Soul
    When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 13-14; doors open at 7 p.m.
    Where: MontBleu Theatre, Stateline, Nevada
    Tickets: $25, reserved seating, dance pit in front
    Website: LINK

Related stories:
Ranking Stevie Wonder’s greatest albums. LINK
Review: Stevie Wonder leaves Tahoe “Overjoyed. LINK
Cliff Porter-Stevie Wonder connection in Reno. LINK
Reno’s super soul group has roots in Motown. LINK

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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