Today is a very important day in the history of popular music. It was on this day in 1959 that Motown was born. An auto worker by the name of Berry Gordy borrowed $800 from his father to start the company, and to create a headquarters at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit. The sign over the door said “Hitsville USA,” and that was no idle boast. The building is a museum today. Motown left Detroit in 1972, leaving behind a city that is still struggling economically.
You’ve no doubt heard the story many times, but here are some of the names; The Temptation, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas, The Marvelettes, Smokey and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells. The producers were equally legendary, including the team of Holland, Dozier and Holland, and Norman Whitfield.
The musicians who played on the records were known as the Funk Brothers. They were largely forgotten until the wonderful documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown was released a few years back, giving wonderful musicians like James Jamerson, Benny Benjamin, Joe Hunter, Earl Van Dyke, and Richard “Pistol” Allen, the recognition that they have deserved for so long.
So if you’ve ever danced to a Motown song, or if hearing one of the songs on the radio takes you back to another time in your life, today is a day to celebrate this great American institution.
It’s impossible to choose one song to represent the incredible heritage of Motown Records. So I decided to choose something that I like, that you might not have heard recently. Enjoy: