Sheffield's connection to The Supremes' Mary Wilson

Mary Wilson, the founder member of The Supremes who died last week, had a link to the city of Sheffield which should not be forgotten.

Monday, 15th February 2021, 3:16 pm
Monica Dyson portrait.

People of my generation will remember Dave Godin as the first director of the Anvil Arts Cinema in Charter Square. But he was so much more than that and a good friend of Mary’s who spoke to her often and met her whenever she visited the UK.

Born in London, Dave went to school with Mick Jagger and first introduced the future megastar to the music of Black America.

On the back of an early job writing for the new Home of the Blues magazine, Dave was recruited by Motown boss Berry Gordy in 1964 to create the Tamla Motown imprint which launched the UK chart success of artists like the Supremes, the Four Tops, Temptations and Stevie Wonder.

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Dave Godin holding a silver disc for the Supremes' Baby Love in hisTamla Motown Appreciation Society office.

He was Britain’s most effective propagandist on behalf of soul music and organised the historic Motown Revue in London in 1965.

In the late 1960s he opened his own record shop and label and would become a leading authority on Black musical history, credited with introducing the term ‘Northern soul’.

Dave moved to Sheffield in the 1970s to take a degree in film studies, then worked for the British Film Institute before joining the Anvil, the UK's first municipal-owned cinema.

When it closed after seven years, he was excluded from its reinvention as the Showroom due to some political shenanigans, but felt most aggrieved for staff who lost their jobs.

A man of great passion and one who loved to talk, Dave was always on the side of the underdog and could sometimes be a bit of a thorn in the side.

As a humanitarian, pacifist, and a member of anarchist and anti-capitalist groups. He wrote copious campaign letters to Sheffield’s council and newspapers.

A long-time chain smoker, Dave died of cancer in 2004 at the age of 68. Far too young and with so much yet to give.

Whenever there is some controversy about who should have a plaque outside the town hall, Dave’s name is never mentioned. In a city which prides itself on musical heritage, it is a serious omission.

His contribution to British and American culture cannot be undervalued and should be recognised in his adopted city.