Airing on May 16, 1983, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever is remembered for being the television special where Michael Jackson introduced the world to the moonwalk, but it was much more than that. The program was the silver anniversary celebration of the Motown music label and also a benefit for sickle cell anemia. In addition to the special, this six-disc set offers an exhaustive collection of behind-the-scenes bonus material.
Disc 1: The Show
The special, hosted by Richard Pryor, features a number of Motown artists as well as other musicians and celebrities. The show is filled with then-modern performances, a backstage discussion between some songwriters, and archival clips. Stevie Wonder delivered a good set and medleys were performed by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and Marvin Gaye. Artists influenced by Motown, Jose Feliciano and Adam Ant, also perform. The crowd loses their mind for the Jackson 5 and Michael makes pop-culture history doing his moonwalk dance move. The special closed out with Diana Ross, with and without the Supremes, and then all the performers took the stage for the finale. Label founder Berry Gordy is brought up from the audience. There is also 30 minutes not seen in the original broadcast.
Bonus material on this disc includes "Motown 25 Performers Roundtable" (19 min) reuniting the special's executive producer and then-president of Motown Production Suzanne de Passe, Smokey Robinson, Otis Williams of The Temptations, and Duke Fakir from The Four Tops 31 years later. "Signed, Sealed & Delivered - The Making of Motown 25" (30 min) is as described.
Disc 2: Rehearsal
"Marvin Gaye Rehearsal" (24 min) is uncut footage as he practices reading his lines and working with the tech crew. This is for the completist only. "What's Going On: Marvin Gaye" (21 min) is a good documentary about the man. There are Interviews with de Passe (38 min) and director/producer Don Mischer (19 min).
Disc 3: The Reunion
There are two Roundtable sessions: Yesterday, Today, Forever: The Motown 25 Production Roundtable (58 min) with de Passe, Mischer, and other crew members discuss the making of the special and Motown 25 Performers Roundtable Pt 2 (30 min) continued from Disc 1 with Robinson, Williams, and Fakir. The featurette "Reach Out I'll Be There: The Temptations and Four Tops" (12 min) is about the bands, and "Come and Get These Memories: Inside Hitsville" (15 min) is about the label and offices. There are Interviews with Duke Fakir (20 min), Otis Williams (20 min), Claudette Robinson of The Miracles (12 min), and Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas (16 min).
Disc 4: History
The "Songwriters Roundtable (from 1983)" (68 min) is uncut footage that made up the segment from the special. There is very interesting stuff as the guys are all loose hanging out together. Dancin' in the Streets: The History of Motown (18 min) There are Interviews with songwriters Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson (11 min) and Gloria Jones (5 min) and from 1983 of songwriter/producer Norman Whitfield (15 min) and songwriters/producers Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier & Eddie Holland (3 min).
Disc 5: Legacy
"Steve Wonder Rehearsal" (9 min) footage. The featurettes are "You've Really Got A Hold On Me: The Miracles" (15 min); My Guy: Smokey Robinson (14 min); I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Motown Sound" (11 min); and "Motown 25 Reboot: the 5.1 Surround Sound Mix" (6 min) about upgrading the DVD sound. There also Interviews with Smokey Robinson (26 min), Iris Gordy (24 min), Adam Ant (21 min), and Russ Terrana (15 min).
Disc 6: The People
And even more interviews with producers Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Janie Bradford, Dom Waller, and George and Jolene Schlatter; writers Nelson George, Ruth Adkins Robinson, and Buz Kohan; executive in charge of Production David Goldberg; Head of NBC Specials Rick Ludwin; agent Michael Black; and Motown executive Tony Jones.
Previously available as a single- and three-disc set in 2014, the new six-disc Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever set is more than the causal fan needs and delivers more than the hardcore fan will expect. If there is something related to this special, it'll be there because the vaults are surely empty. The set also comes with a 48-page color booklet and a copy of the Motown 25 program.