Ken Tucker
November 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

Motown 30: What's Goin' On

type
TV Show
Current Status
In Season
run date
11/23/90
broadcaster
CBS
genre
Music

We gave it an A

The 1983 special Motown 25 is now remembered primarily for a single segment — the one featuring the remarkable dancing of Michael Jackson before he became an all-pervasive media event. In Motown 30, no one steals the show like that. Instead, this homage to three decades of Motown music contains a whole succession of terrific performances. Tracy Chapman sings the civil rights anthem ”A Change is Gonna Come” with more warmth than anything on her last album had; Terence Trent D’Arby elicits screams of amazement from the audience when he delivers a howling, gospel version of Smokey Robinson’s ”Who’s Lovin’ You.” And there’s a salute to Mary Wells, now suffering from throat cancer, that is sung by Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight; accompanied only by Wonder on piano, these Motown vets are marvelously relaxed and passionate at the same time. Like most variety shows, the pace is uneven, as are the comedy segments by everyone from Robert Townsend (Hollywood Shuffle) to Sinbad (A Different World). But what matters is the music, and the music is great. A

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