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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

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In Music

Gatti-Taylor earns encore as a Detroit soul diva


If you met Dr. Marisa Gatti-Taylor, who lives on the East Side and teaches evening classes in Italian at UWM, you'd think she's smart and personable, with a great sense of humor and a charming laugh. If you heard her sing -- usually operas or Italian songs -- you'd think her immensely talented. But you'd likely never mistake her for a Motor City soul diva.

So, it might come as a surprise to her students and to vintage soul fans alike that Gatti-Taylor, who was born in San Marino, a tiny country surrounded by Italy, but raised in Detroit, recorded a pair of tunes at Detroit's Sound Studio in 1966 with many of the musicians that made Motown famous.

"I started singing professionally at age 15 with various combos and orchestras, so the singing was nothing new in itself," says Gatti-Taylor. "I cut the record in 1966, at age 20. It was exciting to be part of the composing process; I even came up with a line for the fast side of the 45 rpm, 'Love's What You Want.' (The flip side was "You're Gone Now.")

"Interestingly, the backup singers are either Martha and the Vandellas or The Supremes, according to experts who have contacted me. I did not meet the backup singers, as the recording was produced in separate sessions."

The rollicking, vibes-laden "Love's What You Want" re-surfaced in June when it was released on "Detroit Dynamite: 21 Northern Soul Wonders From the Wheel City" on Maple Street Records, credited to Mauritia Gatey. And, Gatti-Taylor says, the song is experiencing a renaissance in Britain's legendary Northern Soul scene and in the Soul Jazz scene centered in London.

But this is not the song's first appearance on wax. The tunes were pressed into vinyl in the 1960s, according to Gatti-Taylor.

"While it was not officially released, it was played in various venues. It was not uncommon for it to be played in restaurants, bowling alleys and clubs in Greater Detroit. Many jukeboxes contained it. A recent copy of Discoveries Magazine lists the sale of a mint copy of it for $735. Not bad, for a record which was not officially released!"

So, what happened to the burgeoning soul career?

"The record promotion required a great deal of time," she says. "I had to lip sync it at various sites, including malls, which were a new shopping experience at the time. I was afraid that these commitments would eventually interfere with my academic studies -- I was a very serious student on a full scholarship.

"Besides, "Love's What You Want" was not a song I could ever interpret with the various orchestras I sang with, since it captured the unique Motown sound of the Funk Brothers musicians."

Instead, Gatti-Taylor performs for and with her students in class and at recitals around the area and works as a translator and teacher of Italian. She even composed a national anthem for San Marino, with her daughter.

"The San Marino anthem, which Olivia and I entitled "INNO 2000," is being performed at various functions," she says. "Recently, the Sammarinese community of Grenoble, France, contacted me to obtain permission to perform it at their Christmas Banquet. The signs are encouraging: The Captain of the Montegiardino Castle (San Marino is made up of nine castle communities) has embraced it as a project to promote, since Olivia and I composed the new lyrics in Montegiardino in 2000."

But, she hasn't forgotten her Motown-related moment and has been known on occasion to share a tape of the tunes with interested students. And she was happy to see it make a comeback.

"My brother-in-law, Adelio Bonanni, a rock 'n' roll expert and a collector, has a contact in Brooklyn, who informed him that my song was cut No. 3 on 'Detroit Dynamite.' It was thrilling and puzzling to see it on a CD, since, as I said, it was not officially released. What intrigued me was trying to figure out how my record found its way to Toronto and to the UK.

"What irked me was the fact that my first name is misspelled. So, I wrote to the production company to ask that they correct the spelling of my first name if they ever use my record again."

Gatti-Taylor has three daughters in their teens and 20s. What do they think of the songs?

"They like the record and think I should release it and pursue a career!"

"Detroit Dynamite" is available via numerous Internet record shops and amazon.co.uk.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | Sept. 11, 2006 at 3:48 p.m. (report)

joseph said: I remember a young lady named Marisa singing in windsor at our sunday night dances......we were great dance partners and dear friends.....I am so happy to hear of the success she has found and I,m sure that her music is as sweet today as it was then........hugs .

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