Though not a household name, Paul Riser was an integral part of the revered "Motown Sound" and has contributed to many of the great songs of the last half century as a musician and arranger. Known first as a trombonist, Riser became one of Motown's famed Funk Brothers, with a key role as an arranger on many of the label's biggest hits, including "My Girl," "Tears of a Clown" and "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" (for which he won a Grammy Award).
While Motown's dominance waned in the 1970s, Riser continued as a force, working regularly with other artists and labels. He has been an arranger or conductor for such notable acts as the Doobie Brothers, Luther Vandross, R Kelly and Raphael Saadiq. Even as he reached his senior years, Riser remained in demand, working as an arranger with such artists as Kem and Ron Isley. He has also spent much of his time mentoring young artists and helping to tell the story of Motown to the next generation.
While much of the fame from the Motown music machine was limited to a handful of artists, producers and musicians, an incredible, largely unsung talent like Riser is exhibit #1 as to the true once-in-a-generation confluence of musical genius and opportunity that Motown was at its peak. And music fans continue to be still blessed with new music from Riser more than a half century after he began.
By Chris Rizik