Johnny Griffith, keyboardist for Motown backup group the Funk Brothers, has died at 68. Launch reports:
- This news came just a few hours before the red-carpet premiere of the film about the Funk Brothers, Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, Michigan.
Griffith, 68, had been in bad health recently, and a back injury had sidelined him from participating in last week’s New York premiere of the film, which included a star-studded performance at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
The keyboardist’s death cast a pall over Sunday’s events, and both the Palladium premiere and the Funk Brothers’ performance at an after-party Sunday night at the Roostertail nightclub were dedicated to Griffith’s memory. Shadows director Paul Justman broke into tears and strode out of the theater as writer and co-producer Allen Slutsky–noting that he had been “racing against…the specter of death” since conceiving the film in the late ’80s–informed the crowd of Griffith’s death.
“Another brother has fallen down. I’m sure he’ll be up there (in Heaven) with the rest of them,” Funk Brothers bassist Bob Babbitt said outside the Palladium, referring to other late members of the group such as bassist James Jamerson; drummer Benny Benjamin; keyboardist Earl Van Dyke; and drummer Richard “Pistol” Allen, who died earlier this year.
For much more on the film, the Funk Brothers and their place in Motown history, please see here.