On January 12th, 1959, the ambitious Berry Gordy, with the help of his family, purchased a home at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, MI. He has a vision to turn it into a record label and recording studio, and he did everything in his power to make his vision come to light. The name Motown came from Detroit’s notorious reputation as the Motor City. Different rooms in the house served different purposes. There was an office, a meeting room, the kitchen was a control room, and the garage was transformed into a studio. Every Friday there were group meetings where the artists, songwriters, and producer would pitch their best ideas, and the ideas voted best were set to be put out quickly in order to ensure the idea of quality control. Motown harbored some of the best artists of the time and produced timeless music. It was the first Black owned record label to be recognized nationally.
Marvin Gaye was born April 2, 1939. He was signed to Motown Records, and became extremely popular in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a soul singer with a message. Most people advised him against his “What’s Going On” album because it spoke out against inequity and advocated for social change, but it actually ended up becoming one of his most popular albums. Marvin Gaye died on April 1st, 1984 after his father shot him during a heated argument between the two.
Stevie Wonder was born on May 13th, 1950 in Michigan. He was known as a child musical prodigy because he was an impeccable vocalist, songwriter, and played multiple instruments all while being blind. He produced many hit songs throughout his life, and will forever be known as a legend.
Smokey Robinson was born on February 19th, 1940 in Detroit, MI. He sang with local groups until he formed his own group initially known as The Matadors, but more commonly known as The Miracles. Smokey Robinson also had a successful solo career. He is often referred to as the King Of Motown because of his hard work there not only as a singer, but also a songwriter, producer, and close personal friend to Berry Gordy.
The Supremes were one of the first groups to sign with Motown Records. They started off as a quartet known as The Primettes, but after their first single debuted, the fourth member, Barbara Martin reigned from the group. They went on to be one of the most popular African American girl groups to ever make music. The leas singer, Diana Ross, also went on to have a very noteworthy solo career as well with hit songs such as “I’m coming out” and “Upside Down”.
The four tops were a quartet from Detroit, MI. They sang a variety of genres from soul to R&B to doo-wop and even show tunes. Some of their most popular songs included “I Can’t Help Myself”, “Baby I Need Your Loving”, and “Ain’t No Woman”.
The Jackson 5 were considered one of the first Black boy bands. The group consisted of 5 brothers from Gary, Indiana. The Jackson 5 signed to Motown Records in 1968 and almost immediately blew up. This group of brother were very talented. They played instruments, sang, and danced. They have many popular songs such as “ABC”, “I’ll Be There”, and “I Want You Back”. The lead singer, Michael Jackson, went on the have a very lucrative career, and even became known as the King of Pop. He is a legend with many popular songs such as “Billie Jean”, “Thriller”, and “Rock With You”.
Modern Day Motown is very different from Motown in its prime. Berry Gordy sold Motown, and it was moved to LA with a headquarters in New York. It became more of a label rather than an all inclusive studio and label. It is now partnered with Universal record label and is merely a name rather than an entity.