DETROIT — Esther Gordy Edwards, who helped build Motown Records alongside her brother Berry Gordy Jr. and led efforts to turn its original Detroit headquarters into a museum, has died. She was 91.
Edwards died Wednesday surrounded by family and friends in Detroit, the Motown Historical Museum said in a statement.
Edwards was a Motown executive for nearly three decades, holding numerous leadership positions within the music company whose artists included Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and The Four Tops. Motown Records, which Berry Gordy started with a family loan in 1959, churned out scores of global hits from the building it dubbed “Hitsville, U.S.A.” in Detroit. The company moved to Los Angeles in 1972.
Edwards served as senior vice president, corporate secretary and director of Motown International Operations, where she was charged with exposing the famed “Motown sound” to international audiences.
“I always thought I was the visionary in the family but I missed the biggest thing of all when Esther turned the so-called trash left behind after I sold the company in 1988 into a phenomenal world-class monument at the spot where Hitsville started — the Motown museum,” Berry Gordy said in a statement Thursday.
“She nurtured it and held it together, all through the years, to protect the Motown legacy for generations to come — which is only one of the reasons people all over the world will remember and celebrate Esther Gordy Edwards,” he said.