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…