50 years ago today Motown was founded by Berry Gordy. Gordy was a Korean war vet who came to Detroit during the great migration. After unsuccessfully starting a record store, Gordy began writing songs for Jackie Wilson.
Gordy invested his songwriting earnings into producing and would start Motown with an $800 loan from his family and later bought the legendary Hitsville USA studios. One the first artists signed to Motown was Smokey Robinson and his group, The Miracles. Robinson would serve as vice president of the company as well as songwriter and producer.
Gordy had an extremely talented roster of artists including, The Temptations, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye and The 4 Tops. He also had an extremely talented team of songwriters, including Brian & Eddie Holland and colleague Lamont Dozier otherwise known as Holland-Dozier-Holland, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Gordy himself. Motown also utilized the legendary Funk Brothers as a back up band.
The combination of these artists, songs, producers and musicians created the Motown sound. Together they would produce 47 Number 1billboard hits. Motown would continue it success in the seventies and eighties with The Jackson 5, Lionel Richie and The Commodores, Rick James, Teena Marie and DeBarge. In nineties, Motown would put out records by Boyz II Men and Erykah Badu. Berry and Motown also produced several movies, including Lady Sings the Blues, Mahogany and The Last Dragon.
Motown’s legacy has been also seen on the big screen in movies such as the 5 Heartbeats and Dreamgirls which were based on the stories of The Tempatations and The Supremes.
The popularity of Motown is credited with helping integration, as white people began to see clean cut polished African Americans, listened to their songs and idolized their artists. Many credit Berry and Motown with helping to lead the social integration of African Americans and African American culture that lead to the election of Barack Obama.
1. My Girl-The Temptations
2. Marvin Gaye-What’s Going On
3. The Supremes-Where Did Our Love Go
4. The Jackson 5-I Want You Back
5. Smokey Robinson and The Miracles-Cruisin
6. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell-Ain’t Nothin Like The Real Thing
7. Stevie Wonder-Signed, Sealed Delivered
8. Boyz II Men-It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday
9. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell-You’re All I Need to Get By