A new playlist drawn from the classic Motown era of the 1960s is live from today (13), inspired by the original coming-of-age comedy The Wonder Years. The ABC show is, in turn, informed by the much-loved, award-winning series of the same name, which ran on ABC from 1988 to 1993.
Motown/UMe has collaborated with the makers of the show to create the Return to Wonder Classic Motown Era Playlist, packed with selections from the 1960s epoch of the famous label’s history. The playlist marks the airing next Wednesday (January 19) in its regular 8:30pm EST/PST slot, of the Wonder Years episode I’m With the Band. The selection has been curated by the music supervisor for the series, the Grammy-winning Amani “Burt Blackarach” Smith.
“The Return to Wonder Motown playlist is special to me for many reasons,” says Smith. “Motown is responsible for so many iconic and influential songs and artists; they without a doubt shaped the sound of the music we listen to today. I also grew up around many legendary Motown artists that my musician parents were friends with, including The Isley Brothers, The Pointer Sisters, and The Temptations.
“Motown’s catalog is so grand and so sublime to listen to, from their most popular songs to their most obscure. I put my DJ hat on and really dug through the crates to find unreleased and lesser-known Motown songs that are absolutely incredible. I use the same approach when finding songs to include in The Wonder Years, I am all about unearthing gems from one of the most important eras in music. For me, the reimagined The Wonder Years isn’t just a television show, it’s a feeling, an experience, it’s home. Each episode gives me all of the feels, just like a classic Motown song does.”
The new series, which premiered in September 2021, tells the story of the Williams family during the late 1960s, from the perspective of imaginative 12-year-old Dean, played by Elisha “EJ” Williams. He recollects hopeful and humorous scenes from his young life with the wisdom of his adult years, depicting the the ups and downs of growing up in a Black middle-class family in Montgomery, Alabama.
The I’m With The Band episode focuses on what happens when Dean loses his position as first chair saxophone in the school band, and his father Bill Williams (played by Dulé Hill) puts pressure on him to win it back. After a talk with his wife Lillian (Saycon Sengbloh), Bill realizes that he’s being too harsh and forcing his own dreams upon his son. Hill played Nat King Cole in the 2019 stage production Lights Out at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.
Don Cheadle narrates The Wonder Years as the adult Dean Williams. Other cast members include Laura Kariuki as Kim Williams, Julian Lerner as Brad Hitman, Amari O’Neil as Cory Long, and Milan Ray as Keisa Clemmons. Viewers can catch up on episodes on Hulu.
Listen to the Return to Wonder Classic Motown Era Playlist.