A company started with an $800 loan went on to help shape the sound of the 20th century. We could only be talking about Motown Records, founded on January 12, 1959 by Berry Gordy Jr, who was born in the city he helped make synonymous with sentiment, Detroit, on November 28, 1929. unfailingly vivacious , just before his 90th birthday, gordy announced his retirement at the hitsville honors ceremony, certain his accomplishments will last forever.
listen to the motown playlist.
Gordy built his empire on his early success as a songwriter, particularly of “reet petite,” “lonely teardrops” and others for perhaps the pre-eminent black music artist of the late 1950s, jackie wilson. Detroit, the motor city itself, was sharing the fruits of America’s postwar economic boom, and there was scope for a young and savvy creative business, as we would now call them. but no one, surely not even berry himself, could have known exactly the global dimensions that those possibilities would assume in the coming decades.
Fueled by Gordy’s experience as a songwriter, his innate business instincts, and that borrowing from his family, it all began with Marv Johnson’s “Come To Me”, co-written by the singer with Gordy, who He also produced the song, it was released as the first single on Tamla Records (Tamla Catalog Number 101) on January 21, 1959. Almost from the start, Gordy was a hit beyond the size he could handle.
As “Come To Me” began to spread beyond Detroit and become a national hit, his embryonic Motown venture was, as yet, too small to do it justice. Foxy from the start, Gordy licensed it to United Artists, and “Come To Me” went on to chart at No. 6 on the R&B chart and No. 30 on the Pop chart. the seeds were sown.
the businessman on the factory floor
Experts have debated the secrets to Motown’s success for the next six decades, but if there were any in those early days, Gordy’s approach to a close-knit environment was key. so was his ability to attract, and then hone, elite local talent to the company by being the player-manager, if you will: the businessman who was in the plant, just as he had been when worked at the company. Ford Motor Company’s Lincoln-Mercury plant a few years earlier.
that, and the combination of glorious creativity and rigorous discipline. That union set Motown’s benchmark higher than anyone else’s, bringing what was once known as racing music into the homes of Americans of all creeds and colors, and then to their counterparts in everyone. Those who worked with and for Gordy tell stories of his ruthless adherence to the standards he set for himself and that he expected of others.
The glory days of Gordy’s empire can surely never be matched in the modern musical setting. They have been imitated quite often, and the echoes of what Berry, and everyone connected to the company, built reverberates around the world every hour of every day. Motown: The musical rode on the never-ending tidal wave of affection for the company’s legacy, following its Broadway premiere in April 2013, and that indestructible love continues with the remarkable documentary in which the executive was key, hitsville: the making of motown. we rejoice in the fact that none of this would have happened without berry gordy jr.