Joe Messina, Motown guitarist and member of the Funk Brothers, has died at the age of 93

Joe Messina, one of the star guitarists at Motown’s leading studio band, Funk Brothers, died early Monday at his son Joel Messina’s home in Northville, his son has confirmed. He died of natural causes at the age of 93.

Along with other Funk Brothers, Messina won two Grammy Awards in 2003 for the soundtrack to the documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown”. A year later, the Recording Academy awarded him and Funks the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Motown has used a lot of musicians, but most often on those classic versions you hear a line of three guitars, with Robert White on one side from Messina and Eddie Willis on the other (supplemented by guitarists Dennis Coffey and Wow Watson). Only Stevie Wonder manages to reproduce this attack with three live guitars, giving it a real Motown sound.

For Motown, Messina’s strong point was the back beat, as well as his ability to read music, which allowed him to explain parts to other guitarists. Messina also loved to double the bass line (if allowed by the producers), and you can hear him do it along with bassist James Jamerson in Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell’s song “Your Precious Love”.

This persistent guitar figure who penetrates Diana Ross and “Someday We’ll Be Together” by Supremes – Joe Messina. He was also the lead actor in the Four Tops films “Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”, Martha and the Vandellas “Dancing in the Street” and Stevie Wonder’s “For Onece In My Life” where his jazz chops , honed in the nightclubs of Detroit’s legendary jazz scene in the late 1940s and 1950s, came in handy.

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