Tag Archives: Barry Gordy

Celebrate Black Music Month

This month, Black Music Month, is as profound to the African America Diaspora as Black History Month. We are the inventors and creators of sounds that changed world cultures.

If we were to begin way back in the cradle of civilization centuries ago it all began with the drum. When we were captured and brought to the so-called New World we brought with us the rhythms that dictate our souls. It is a fact that African American people are responsible for the great music known as Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Soul, R&B, Rap, Hip Hop, and just about every musical sound we hear that featured and directly speak to the glorious past.

During the despicable era of slavery and segregation prior to the Civil Rights Movement the hallowing sounds of gospel music delivered an in-your-face sound that fed the souls of a people and that outlet produced some of the most timeless music ever created. Before I go further, let’s remember that it was Michael Jackson whose music video was the first black music to air on MTV.

This brings me to historic and game-changing record label – Motown and its founder Mr. Barry Gordy. Let’s be honest, can you imagine a world without The “Motown Sound”. For many who don’t know or have forgotten, prior to Motown Records rarely did you see the face of an African American on the cover of an album or black music heard on white radio. The music we enjoyed was called “race music” and it was segregated in the same way America was prior to 1959, when Motown was founded. Prior to Motown Records few black performers enjoyed anything close to crossover success. By the way, an album is what was used to play music before CD’s.

Motown was the first record label owned by an African American to primarily feature African-American artists and its soul-based subsidiaries were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as The Motown Sound, which was a style of soul music with a distinct influence. From its Hitsville U.S.A building on 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan that served as Motown’s headquarters produced the most universally recognized stable of songwriters and performers of our time or anytime.

The music produced by Motown made a nation of people living in this nation without a nationality proud with its awe-inspiring run of hits that spoke to the essence of our souls. Form a tiny little basement studio we were introduced to Michael Jackson, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Four Tops, the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jr. Walker and the All Stars, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Rick James, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Teena Marie, DeBarge, the Jackson Five, Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes and Motown’s Funk Brothers studio band; just to name a few of the artists that graced our souls and touched our hearts making us proud.

Many of Motown’s best-known hits were written by Smokey Robinson, Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield and the songwriting trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland who became major forces in the music industry. For example, it’s a known fact in the music industry that in order to get a number one hit song someone would have to write more than thirty songs. Holland-Dozier-Holland had a string of more than fifty hits in a row with some becoming number one with several different artists like the hit “I heard it through the Grapevine”. This is profound and will never happen again. No songwriter will ever achieve this feat – guaranteed.

Although Mr. Gordy sold Motown and it’s now in the hands of others its legacy resides in a very special place in my heart. I’m sure with you and millions around the world as well. So again I say, thank you Motown for the music, the love, the magic, and the many great memories.

Lastly, to the legends who are no longer able to perform for us today – thank you for your contribution – Rest in Peace. My guess is that they are walking around heaven all day singing with gleeful harmony the same way as it touched our souls when they were with us in this earthly realm. It must make haven more glorious and wonderful than I could ever imagine. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

JUST A SEASON


The House Of Soul

There was once a time and not too long ago when black music was rarely heard by the masses. The great music that African American performers created was not allowed to be played on the radio. It was called “race music”, however, the white performers stole this music. So many of those African American performers never made much money, if any at all as a result, and I am stopping short of calling this a crime, which is what it was.

Then came a man named Berry Gordy, who changed the face of music.  I would like to take this opportunity pay homage and say THANK YOU Mr. Gordy for Motown for your contribution to the world, our pride – as well as having the vision to know it was possible.

Most people do not know or remember that before Motown Records few black performers enjoyed anything close to crossover success. Black music was, then, called “race music” and was segregated in the same manner as the rest of America before 1959, when Motown was founded. Let me also remind you that rarely could the face of a black person be seen on an album cover before Motown’s founding. By the way, an album is what was used for music before CDs.

Motown was a company that primarily featured African American artists and its soul-based subsidiaries became the most successful proponents of what came to be known as “The Motown Sound”. This was a style of soul music with a distinct influence on all who heard it. From its Hitsville U.S.A Building on 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan that served as Motown’s headquarters. The label produced the most universally recognized stable of songwriters and performers of our time or any time.

From this tiny little basement studio, the world was introduced to Michael Jackson, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Four Tops, the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Rick James, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Teena Marie, DeBarge, the Jackson Five, Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes and Motown’s Funk Brothers studio band just to name a few of the artists that graced our souls and touched our hearts making us proud.

Many of Motown’s best-known hits were written by Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield and the songwriting trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who became major forces in the music industry. For example, it’s a known fact in the music industry that to get a number one hit song someone would have to write more than thirty songs. Holland-Dozier-Holland had a string of more than fifty hits in a row with some becoming number one with several different artists, like the hit “I heard it through the Grapevine”. This is profound and will never happen again. No songwriter will ever achieve this feat – guaranteed.

Mr. Gordy did sell Motown, and it’s now in the hands of others. However, its legacy resides in a very special place in my heart, and I’m sure millions around the world. So again I say, thank you Motown for the music, the love, the magic, and the many great memories.

Lastly, to the legends that are no long able to perform for us today – thank you for your contribution – Rest in Peace. I know walking around heaven all day listening to the harmony of your souls must make heaven more glorious and wonderful than I could ever imagine. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Happy Birthday Marvin Gaye

B6Abw9_CQAABg5qMusic has been made, in some form or another since mankind first beat the drum and hummed the first tune or made the first sound. Let me say that it is a fact, and I will say for the record, it was done first by black people. Of course, we know that music has been sung and written for every genre. But, I will tell you that nobody did it better than the stable of artists assembled by Mr. Barry Gordy founder of Motown Records.

I don’t have enough paper to name all of the stars who made all that great music or list the catalog of hits produced. To give you an idea, I’ll just mention a few: Michael Jackson, Dianna Ross, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Supremes, Lionel Richie, and I could go on and on! But I want to pay homage to the most profound of all of the Motown artists, and maybe the most troubled, of them all – Marvin Gaye.

Through this writing, I won’t get into the life problems of the man because most of us know the story. What I want to do is speak to the genius of the man and of course as we know there is a thin line between genius and insanity. It is not that I’m saying that Marvin was insane, rather as he said himself – troubled! Marvin made wonderful music with groups, solo, and with great female artists such as Tammi Terrell, Kim Weston, Diana Ross, and Mary Wells.

What I want to do is to remind you of the timeless impact Marvin had on all of us. It was on June 10, 1970, when Marvin returned to the Hitsville U.S.A. studios to record a new composition, “What’s Going On”, inspired by an idea from Renaldo “Obie” Benson of the Four Tops after he witnessed an act of Police Brutality at an anti-war rally in San Francisco. Marvin later played the song to Berry Gordy, who refused to release it due mainly to its jazz-oriented sound, which Gordy labeled “outdated”. As a result, Marvin refused to record unless Motown released the song.

The song was released on January 17, 1971, and quickly shot to number one on the R&B charts within a month staying there for five weeks, also reaching number-two on the Billboard pop chart and number one on Cashbox’s pop chart for a week, selling over a million copies. Emboldened by its success, Motown then allowed Marvin to record a full album. The album became Gaye’s first million-selling album and featured two more top-ten hits “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and “Inner City Blue”.

The album made history as it became one of Motown’s first autonomous works, without the help of Motown’s staff producers. Its themes and segue flow brought the concept album format to rhythm and blues music. The album was later hailed as “the most important and passionate record to come out of soul music, delivered by one of its finest voices”.

What makes the “What’s Going On” album significant; it is the most socially conscience and profound recording of all times and it stands the test of time. Meaning, you can play it today and see that we face the same issues as we did in 1971. “What’s Going On” is as relevant today as it was over forty years ago. With that said, shouldn’t we listen to the tune again and make an effort to change the world from what it used to be. Happy Birthday, Marvin Gaye!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


What Would Jesus Say?

It is safe to say that most people believe Jesus is coming back and/or think he is the savior of mankind. Whether you are a believer or not, as a result of the conditions of man might be the reason he has not returned. I’ll tell you that if I were him and see the sad state of affairs man has created, I would seek out a Noah and start all over again!

When I look at the senseless murders due to wars, be it in the streets or against nations or this divided nation whose views on feeding the homeless, the lack of healthcare, poverty, the murders and other acts against religious thinking proves civilization is in despair. Hippocrates use as justification their support of such evil by adding scripture in God’s name. My sense they believe their view is the natural order of things or maybe God’s plan for life. I cannot and will not speak for God, but I do not believe this is what God planned.

When it comes to the wretchedness of government and its leaders, it shameful to see the actions and hateful diatribes about race, the least of thee, and religion. As you know, all of these issues are commonly used by the right-wing nuts to vilify the poor. Admittedly, and shamefully, race is and has always been a stain on the soul of America. As I began to ponder just what kind of country we would have without a government that mandates laws for civilization to exist. What would Jesus or you higher power think!

More disturbing is that religion, God, and Jesus have become little more than instruments of the wicked. For example, on any given Sundays between the hours of 9 AM – 1 PM is the most-segregated hours in the country. I can’t speak to what is in the mind of others except for what they say, and some of the vitriol gives a good indication as to what’s in their hearts. I, in good conscience, rail against the racially charged political environment, and for sure the teabaggers designed declaration of “taking back their country.”

Finally, on the issue of justice and racial justice in particular; maybe understanding that Jesus came from that region of the world where his hue had to be of color could more likely be one of the reasons why he had to be crucified! Just as was the case with the murder of Jesus; there are people who are killing the messenger of truth now.

What I think Jesus would say, as his mission was for the salvation of the least of thee, I think he would say – “Thou shalt not Kill.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective.


Stand Your Ground Against Injustice

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History has proven there is only one way to get the attention of unmovable ideologies to achieve change. Matching and protests are strategies, which is nothing more than a good show for the cameras. For example, the March on Washington and the Million Man March produced little in terms of measurable results. On the other hand, BOYCOTT’s work – the Birmingham Bus Boycott and the Martin Luther King Holiday Boycott on the state of Arizona – WORKED! It is time to stop BS-ing and BOYCOTT INJUSTICE and the system that supports connected to it. We will then get change. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Remembering Juneteeth

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We must never forget Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that those enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.

The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. Many attempts to explain the two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years.

The story often told is of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another story is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. Then there is yet another story that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version, could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question. Regardless, the conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former ‘masters’ – attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom.

North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants.

The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date. A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in the tradition today. Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in, and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.

The Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s yielded both positive and negative results for the Juneteenth celebrations. While it pulled many of the African American youth away and into the struggle for racial equality, many linked these struggles to the historical struggles of their ancestors. This was evidenced by student demonstrators involved in the Atlanta civil rights campaign in the early 1960’s, who wore Juneteenth freedom buttons. Again in 1968, Juneteenth received another strong resurgence through Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C. Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor.

Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.

The future of Juneteenth looks bright as the number of cities and states creating Juneteenth committees continues to increase. Respect and appreciation for all of our differences grow out of exposure and working together. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. This indeed brightens our future – and that is the Spirit of Juneteenth. So lest not forget!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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