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Black History Month – Berry Gordy

Black History Month – Berry Gordy, Jr. , Motown Record Corporation, Detroit   January 1959 – Present  

Motown, in full Motown Record Corporation, also called Hitsville, recording company founded by Berry Gordy, Jr., in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., in January 1959 that became one of the most successful Black-owned businesses and one of the most influential independent record companies in American history. The company gave its name to the hugely popular style of soul music that it created.

Moving from Georgia to Detroit, Gordy’s family was part of the massive migration of hundreds of thousands of African Americans from the South during and after World War I, lured largely by the promise of work in Northern manufacturing industries such as Detroit’s auto plants. Gordy’s parents, hard-working entrepreneurs, instilled in their children the gospel of hard work and religious faith. They also played a major role in financing Gordy in his early years in the music business.

During the 1960s Motown became one of the reigning presences in American popular music, along with the Beatles. Gordy assembled an array of talented local people (many of whom had benefited from the excellent music education program at Detroit public schools in the 1950s) at 2648 West Grand Boulevard, destined to become the most famous address in Detroit.

Serving as both recording studio and administrative headquarters, this two-story house became the home of “Hitsville.” Motown’s roster included several successful solo acts, such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross,  Stevie Wonder (a star as both a child and an adult), and Mary Wells. In addition to the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, who notched Motown’s first million-selling single, “Shop Around” (1960), there were several young singing groups, including the TemptationsMartha and the Vandellas, and the Marvelettes.

There also were a number of somewhat older groups that scored big, such as the Four Topsthe Contours, and Junior Walker and the All-Stars. A number of acts that were not developed by Motown wound up enjoying hit records during a stint with the company, including the Isley Brothers and Gladys Knight and the Pips

Resource by: Gerald Early

Provided by: St. Paul’s Cathedral San Diego, Sacred Ground in Action Committee (SGIA)


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