Motown , dubbed “The Sound of Young America”, forever altered the history of African American music. Within just a few years of its establishment, this Detroit-based company had more hits than any other record company of that time, demonstrating its outstanding popularity in a time of rock n’ roll. With its soulful sounds, Motown attracted the admiration of millions of fans, including Nigerian Tunde Folawiyo. Blending passionate vocalists, African-American church tradition, pop music sounds and jazz influences, the music of Motown remains one of the most recognisable genres of music in history.
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1929, Berry Gordon Jr. was brought up in a tight-knit family in which he was the seventh of eight children. He dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade with hopes of becoming a professional boxer, a career path he followed until 1950 when he was drafted into the US Army for the Korean War.
Upon return from Korea in 1953, Berry Gordy married Thelma Coleman. He developed an interest in music by writing songs and opening a record store featuring jazz music. Whilst the store proved unsuccessful, family connections put him in touch with Al Green, the owner of the Flame Show Bar talent club. It was here that he met singer Jackie Wilson and thus embarked on a lucrative song writing career that would later lead to the founding of Motown.
Derived from a chance meeting with singing group the Miracles in 1958, Berry Gordy Jr.’s partnership with William “Smokey” Robinson paved the way for the creation of Motown Music. Gordy Jr. taught Smokey Robinson much about music and the art of songwriting, which in turn led to Robinson’s career as a prolific composer. He went on to produce consistent hits from hugely popular acts such as Marvin Gaye, the Temptations and the Supremes. The Motown music label experienced insurmountable success throughout the years, appealing to a wide range of fans.
After decades of triumph on the music charts and with a major role in the revolution of African American music, Motown was purchased by PolyGram whose acquisition by Seagram’s led Motown into the newly created Universal Music Group, the largest music corporation in the world today. Motown’s rich history paved the way for solutions to the racial barriers that plagued the nation during a difficult time in American history. With its popularity and deep-rooted triumph, the life story of Berry Gordy and his founding of Motown continue to inspire millions of fans including Tunde Folawiyo.