The Birth of Rock: the Motown Sound
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The Birth of Rock: the Motown Sound

Discovering and signing a veritable whoÂ’s who of Black recording greats--from Mary Wells to Gladys Knight to The Jackson Five--Gordy parlayed a knack for knowing a hit song when he heard one, into one of the biggest music empires in the world. And although all but a few of his line-up were Black artists, Motown RecordÂ’s influence on the Rock music industry via its songwriters, musicians, and performers was nothing short of extraordinary. From 1970 to present day, Motown Records has gone on to sign dozens more incredibly talented acts including Ashford & Simpson, Kiki Dee, Eddie Kendricks, Michael Jackson, the Commodores (featuring Lionel Richie), Rick James, Bonnie Pointer, Lionel Richie, Brian McKnight, and even Lindsay Lohan. While most who contributed to the birth of Rock are gone--having left a lasting impression--the Motown Sound continues to affect it.

During the 1960s, one of the most dominant musical forces in America was the Motown Record Corporation, founded in April of 1960 by record producer Berry Gordy, Jr. 

Discovering and signing a veritable who’s who of Black recording greats--from Mary Wells to Gladys Knight to The Jackson Five--Gordy parlayed a knack for knowing a hit song when he heard one, into one of the biggest music empires in the world.  And although all but a few of his line-up were Black artists, Motown Record’s influence on the Rock music industry via its songwriters, musicians, and performers was nothing short of extraordinary. 

Learning his craft first as a songwriter--writing songs for Jackie Wilson (“Lonely Teardrops”) and Etta James (“All I Could Do was Cry”)--Berry then turned his talents to producing, starting his incredible stable of talent in 1957 with the Miracles (featuring Smokey Robinson), and then signing Mary Wells in 1960.  Launching Wells’ career with three Smokey Robinson compositions: “You Beat Me to the Punch,” “Two Lovers,” and the now-classic “My Guy,” Motown Records officially began kicking ass and taking names.  (Gordy even had the foresight to arrange for Wells to tour with the new British sensations, the Beatles.) 

Over the next decade, Motown signed and produced over 50 artists including The Supremes (featuring Diana Ross) in 1960 (“Tears of Sorrow”), The Marvelettes (“Please Mr. Postman”) and Marvin Gaye (“Let Your Consciounce Be Your Guide“) in 1961, and then in 1962, signed Martha and the Vandellas (“Love is Like a Heatwave”).

In 1963, Motown added Stevie Wonder (“Fingertips, Pt 2”), in 1964, The Temptations (“The Way You Do the Things You Do”) as well as The Four Tops (“Baby I Need Your Loving”).

In 1965, Jr. Walker & the Allstars (“Shotgun”) joined the Motown stable, followed by The Isley Brothers (“This Old Heart of Mine Is Weak for You”) and Jimmy Ruffin (“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”) in 1966.

In 1968, Edwin Starr (later of "War" fame) joined the label (“Twenty-Five Miles”), followed in 1969 by what many consider Gordy’s ultimate discovery, the 11-year old marvel of The Jackson Five, Michael Jackson, releasing the groundbreaking, “I Want You Back.”

From 1970 to present day, Motown Records, under Berry Gordy’s phenomenal guidance, has gone on to sign dozens more incredibly talented acts including Ashford & Simpson, Kiki Dee, Eddie Kendricks, Michael Jackson, the Commodores (featuring Lionel Richie), Rick James, Bonnie Pointer, Lionel Richie, Brian McKnight, and even Lindsay Lohan.  While most who contributed to the birth of Rock are gone--having left a lasting impression--the Motown Sound continues to affect it.

References:

Rock: A History of Change, T. C. Carr

The Rock Revolution, A. Shaw

http://www.motown.com/

http://www.seabear.se/detroit1.htm

Thumb via: http://www.coversdaddy.com/frontcovers/va-the-best-of-motown-1996-music-front-cover-7999.jpg with my appreciation

Visit JAMES R COFFEY WRITING SERVICES AND RESOURCE CENTER for more information

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Comments (10)

Talking about back in the day, my day. Outstanding article..voted

Really amazing what Berry Gordy did building up Motown Records and all of those stars.

Outstanding review of Soul music.

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Thanks, Ron!

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Sam, I think Gordy is probably who Spector wanted to be.

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Thank you kindly, Francina!

Phil Spector was and is a nutcase. He should have focused more on music than guns. I remember reading or listening to an interview with John Lennon once who said, Spector took a gun out in the studio and it went off, the bullet ended up in the wall next to Lennon.

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No doubt, Sam. But I think he coulda been a contender if he'd been able to keep a grip on his impulses.

Now, you're talking! Motown is still my favorite sound in music and Gordy certainly had a phenomenal ear in recognizing a winner. Can you imagine what music would've been like if Gordy wasn't around? Spector had nothing on Gordy.

Ranked #1 in Music

Indeed, Sandy. And music of that era wasn't nearly as White/Black polorized as many people think.

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