It all started with a flat on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit and an 800 dollar loan. Former boxer and Korean War Vet Berry Gordy had a dream…to create a place where a black kid could quote “walk off the street into the studio and leave a polished performer.” He wanted to make records, to discover serious talent, to churn out hits the way a Detroit auto factory churns out cars. So, Motown Records was launched.
Berry Gordy rocketed a family called the Jacksons to international stardom. Found an 11 year-old prodigy named Stevland Morris, soon dubbed “Little Stevie Wonder.” From Marvin Gaye to the Temptations, Diana Ross to Mary Wells. Berry Gordy discovered the greatest of all time. And in doing so he made history. Motown made it okay for white people to like black music.
Here’s a masterpiece. A song written by Berry Gordy. And one of his label’s first releases. “Money.”
Born November 28, 1929 in Detroit, Michigan, Berry Gordy is a producer, songwriter and entrepreneur. He is best known as the founder of Motown records and its subsidiary companies.
Gordy dropped out of high-school to become a professional boxer, before being drafted by the US Army into the Korean War.
After returning from the war Gordy opened up a record store (which failed shortly after.) He took work at an auto plant to make money and began writing songs. He co-wrote songs for Jackie Wilson which became modest hits, and penned the classic “All I Could Do Was Cry” for Etta James.
In ’57 Gordy invested his songwriting profits in producing, began searching for artists, discovered the Miracles, and at the urging of Smokey Robinson founded the record label Tamla in 1959. Soon enough, Tamla was incorporated, and Motown Records was born.
By 1960, Berry’s label already had a solid roster of stars with chart topping hits such as Barret Strong’s “Money” and the Miracles’ “Shop Around.” He discovered Mary Wells soon after, and the next decade he would discover and sign some of the century’s greatest musicians. His careful production of both music and image contributed to Motown’s ability to shatter the barriers keeping black artists from peaking on white dominated charts.
Berry Gordy has eight children, lives in Los Angeles, California, and is a vegan. A musical based on Gordy’s life and the founding of Motown Records is currently on Broadway.