Richard "Popcorn" Wylie / June 6, 1939 - Sept 7, 2008

A Northern Soul legend, Popcorn Wylie was one of the earliest contributors to the Motown hit-making machine as an instrumentalist, composer, producer, A&R man and artist. A pianist from Detroit, he grew up with bassist James Jamerson and the two were in a band together as teenagers. That band, Popcorn & the Mohawks, would cut a few singles for Motown in the early '60s before both the future stars got absorbed into the house band, The Funk Brothers.

Wylie played on several big hits such as "Shop Around" (the Miracles), "Please Mr Postman" (Marvellettes), as well as tunes by Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Contours, Mary Wells, Vandellas and more. He led the Motown Revue in '62 before he walked out, disappointed with Barry Gordy (what's new?).

In the mid '60s he cut a few singles for Epic, allegedly featuring members of Sun Ra's Arkestra. He worked with Edwin Starr at Ric-Tic, produced several singles for Golden World, co-composed "I Spy For The FBI" and founded a couple of his own labels. He freelanced for several indie soul labels (some of these records would eventually go for big cash), even returning to Motown briefly for his successful '71 hit "Funky Rubber Band".

He cut his Extrasensory Perception album for ABC in '74, an album which would attain a cult appreciation. It was the Northern Soul revivalists in the UK during the '80s that would help shine some light on his various singles, a situation that Wylie fully appreciated and worked with, including more touring, recording and even working as a general historian of the Northern Soul phenomenon.

Tagged: blues, Celebrate Icons, disco, Funk Brothers, jazz, Motown, piano, Richard "Popcorn" Wylie, soul!, soul/funk

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