BERRY GORDY, born November 28, 1929, a man of vision, drive, talent, and determination, became a boxer, songwriter, producer, director, entrepreneur, and founded Motown. A playlist of Motown artists helps John celebrate Gordy’s birthday and you are invited on Crosscurrents , Monday 28 Nov. at 8:00 AM. Listen live at www.KRNN.org, 102.7fm, or 103.1fm.
A man of vision, drive, talent, and determination, Berry Gordy(born November 28, 1929, Detroit, Michigan, became a boxer, songwriter, producer, director, entrepreneur, and founded Motown—the hit-making enterprise born in Detroit, Michigan. He discovered and nurtured the careers of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and the Commodores, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, The Temptations, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and many other music greats and is responsible for the “Motown Sound” that reached out across a racially divided, politically and socially charged country, to transform popular music.
In the 1960s, Gordy moved his artists into television, being among the first Black artists on shows like American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show. Actively involved in the Civil Rights movement, he released the recorded speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Expanding to films, his movies include Mahogany, his directorial debut, and Lady Sings the Blues, which garnered five Academy Award® nominations.
Over the years, Gordy has received four honorary doctorates and numerous awards and inductions including: Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, the naming of Berry Gordy Square at Sunset Blvd and Argyle Avenue in Hollywood, the Rainbow Coalition’s Man of the Millennium Award, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Grammy President’s Merit Award, the National Medal of Arts presented by President Barack Obama, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame Award.
The founder of Motown Records, Berry Gordy did what many people of his time believed could never be done: he brought Black music into millions of White Americans’ homes, helping both Black artists and their culture gain acceptance, and opening the door for a multitude of successful Black record executives and producers. Though the music of Motown was not as raw or edgy as other R&B labels, such as Chess and Stax, the songs that were written, produced, and released from “Hitsville USA” comprise some of the most enduring, sophisticated, and popular music of our time.
Influential artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Smokey Robinson were all discovered and their talents fostered by Berry Gordy. Motown groups like the Four Tops, the Supremes, and the Temptations are regarded as some of the best vocal groups ever to record. Even now, years after Gordy sold the company, the reputation of excellence he forged at Motown continues to stay with the famous label.
The sale of Motown, though sad for many, was concrete proof of Gordy’s success. Taking an $800 loan from his family, he turned Motown into the most successful Black-owned label in history. In the process, Gordy also brought the world countless memorable songs, not only through his vision for spotting talent in others, but also his own talent as a songwriter and producer.