On this day, February 2, 2024, we honor the memory of Joe Hunter, a pivotal figure in the Motown legacy, whose contributions as a musician and keyboardist helped shape the sound of a generation.
Born on November 19, 1927, Hunter was not just any musician; he was a foundational force behind the Motown Sound. As an original member of the Funk Brothers, Hunter’s mastery on the keyboard laid the foundation for countless Motown classics. His work behind the scenes played a significant role in the success of icons like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
As the first bandleader for Motown Records from 1959 until 1964, Hunter’s keyboard artistry graced hits like “Pride and Joy” by Marvin Gaye, “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas, and “Shop Around” by The Miracles. His boogie-woogie and bluesy piano figures became a signature of Motown’s vibrant sound.
Joe’s journey from a young pianist influenced by the likes of Rachmaninov, Nat King Cole, and Art Tatum, to a key player in the Motown revolution, is a testament to his immense talent and passion for music. Despite leaving Motown to explore new ventures, his impact on the label and its artists remains indelible.
As we remember Joe Hunter today, let’s honor the man who help lay the groundwork for what would become the soundtrack to a generation. His contributions to music, especially within the Motown family, continue to inspire and resonate with us all.