Benny Benjamin’s Unbeatable Timing

SKF NOTE: Piecing together for my History of Rock Drumming series the mystery that was Motown‘s drummers, I called Motown’s offices for help, and Brian Holland spoke with me! I didn’t ask to speak with Mr. Holland. I imagine the woman answering phones at Motown, after putting me on hold, announced, “There’s a guy on the phone from Modern Drummer magazine. He wants to talk with someone about Motown drummers. Anybody want to talk to him?” And Brian Holland was nice enough to come to the phone.

Backgrounder: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Web Site says, “Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland wrote and produced many of the songs that are most closely identified with Motown. These include “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “You Can’t Hurry Love” (the Supremes), “Heat Wave” and “Jimmy Mack” (Martha and the Vandellas), “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “Baby I Need Your Loving” (the Four Tops), and “Can I Get a Witness” and “How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You” (Marvin Gaye). These classics are only the tip of the iceberg, insofar as Holland-Dozier-Holland’s 10-year output at Motown is concerned. In their behind-the-scenes roles as staff producers and songwriters, Holland-Dozier-Holland were as responsible as any of the performers for Motown’s spectacular success.”

This excerpt on the respected drummer, Benny Benjamin, is from the full interview with Brian Holland.

Scott K Fish: How did you find Benny Benjamin?

Brian Holland: I think Berry Gordy knew Benny or heard about Benny from some big bands back then. Because he used to work a lot of people before Motown got started anyway. I think that’s how we came about with Benny.

He was a great drummer. The timing he had was…. I mean, I could play some things back now and listen to those pickups, and the timing that he had was just unbeatable. I mean really unbeatable.

I’m not saying that because he played with us back in those Motown days. I’m saying that because he had such great timing and with pickups. And he always felt the music as he went along. He would hum the music as he would go along, singing, just as happy as he could be, right along with the music. And he would always say, “Man, that’s a hit. That’s a hit.” And most of the time he was right.

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