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VOL. 130 | NO. 203 | Monday, October 19, 2015

Timberlake Remarks Show Generational Change in Music Heritage

By Bill Dries

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Memphis music heritage, and the remembrance of it, turned an important corner Saturday, Oct. 17, when Justin Timberlake walked on stage at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts.

Justin Timberlake dances during the Memphis Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday, Oct. 17.

(AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)

Timberlake, 34, is the youngest inductee into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

His perspective on the city’s musical heritage made his extended remarks more than a career victory lap on a very good weekend for all things Memphis, including football.

Many artists have paid tribute to Memphis music – Robert Plant regularly talks of being excited the moment he sets foot in the city, and Graceland is a de rigueur place of homage for touring musicians across generations. Joel Weinshanker, the partner in Elvis Presley Enterprises who is currently guiding the direction of its marketing, is a former road manager for a band that took the tour in 1992.

But Timberlake turned the generational corner as few from the city have done before.

“You can’t not know about the importance of guys like Elvis, Jerry Lee (Lewis) and Johnny Cash – a fellow inductee tonight Scotty Moore, the Phillips family and Sun Studios – the whole history,” Timberlake said in his half-hour speech. “But when I was about 10 years old, I realized that the great Al Green lived about 10 minutes away from me in Shelby Forest. I know the reverend is originally from Forrest City, Ark. But it hit me that if someone that big with those songs … with that voice … that if he lived out in the middle of nowhere like me and he could make it, then so could I.”

The reference to Green is more than a name check.

Timberlake and Green were called on at the last minute to perform together at the 2009 Grammy awards after Chris Brown and Rihanna each cancelled.

The duet with Green was Timberlake’s idea.

Royal Recording Studio, the one-time South Memphis movie theater where Green recorded all of his 1970s-era hits with Willie Mitchell at the board, is where Bruno Mars recorded “Uptown Funk” in late 2014, a song that topped the national music charts at the start of 2015.

Willie Mitchell’s son, Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, owns the studio and represents the next generation of the family business. Lawrence Mitchell has worked with with Plant, Elton John and Snoop Dogg among others. He also co-produced the 2014 Memphis music documentary, “Take Me To The River.”

Justin Timberlake, center, whistles the tune “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” with Steve Cropper, left, during the Memphis Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday, Oct. 17.

(AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)

Timberlake, in his Saturday remarks, gave a leg-up to the hall of fame, which already got a serious boost in its profile with word that he, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and comedian and TV talk show host Jimmy Fallon would participate in the honors.

The Hall of Fame opened its physical home earlier this year as part of the new Hard Rock Cafe at Beale and Second streets. It joins a new Blues Hall of Fame to go with a Stax Museum of American Soul Music, a Sun Studios museum that is still an active recording studio and the Rock and Soul Museum, which operates the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

“The Grammys are political. The Emmys are political. Memphis is not political. And don’t get me started on Hollywood,” Timberlake said.

“When people ask me where I’m from, I say Memphis. Not where you live right now,” he added. “Where are you from? This, as everyone here in this room knows, is a one-of-a-kind place and I can say that with total sincerity because I’ve been all over the world.”

He even took on the city’s well-documented attitude.

“I think that there are some people around the world that visit us here in Memphis and then they say that Memphis has a chip on its shoulder,” Timberlake said. “In the famous words of Isaac Hayes – damn right. But see we don’t call it that. We call that real. We call that soul. … My favorite part about this city is we don’t apologize for who we are. That is what this city has taught me to be more than anything.”

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