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Local News / Entertainment

Friday, 9 January, 2009 7:45 PM

Motown Records To Celebrate 50th Anniversary

Photo credit: www.solcomhouse.com

The Motown Museum in Detroit.

by Garrett Godwin
ggodwin82@yahoo.com

 

DETROIT -- During the 1950s and 1960s, the civil rights movement was a time for African-Americans to not only fight for equality and justice, but it was also a time to let their voice be heard in a world of racial strife and segregation. Then, on January 12, 1959, a then 31-year-old Berry Gordy created a record company out of an $800 loan from the family fund, and named it Motown. And soon, it would change both the city of Detroit and the world of popular music forever.

Motown, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on Monday, has launched the careers of several that include The Temptations, The Four Tops, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Jackson 5, and much more. These artists and groups cranked out memorable classics such as "My Girl", "You Can't Hurry Love", "Tears of a Clown", and "ABC" that reached out to both black and white people.

"All of them were talented", Gordy said to The Detroit News on Friday, "all of them were magical, because they were doing their own thing. Although we were using the same band, Marvin [Gaye] sounded nothing like Smokey, Smokey sounded like Stevie [Wonder], Martha sounded nothing like Diana. It came from the philosophy of being yourself, you are you. The first song I wrote was 'You are You'. They believed in that and they lived that and they're still living it today, still paying their taxes."

However, it wasn't easy for Gordy to keep Motown's legacy as well as his own alive and accurate. For instance, the 2006 film Dreamgirls was an fictional account of its beginnings; Gordy criticized the portrayal of the "thuggish" boss played by Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, and later received an apology from the producers who posted it on the movie traders. "The truth can only win if you can afford to fight for it and are willing to fight for it, and I was" he stated to the News.

Despite the financial and automotive crisis as well as the Kwame Kilpatrick that has recently been plauging the Motor City, this is still the time to celebrate the sound of Motown. "Maybe we can get to heal some of the tension, ease some of the bad feelings. It's good timing," Detroit City Councilwoman Martha Reeves said to The Detroit Free Press on Friday.

Though "The Chairman" known as Berry Gordy has sold Motown for $61 million dollars in 1988, he hasn't slowed down. The 79-year-old is still watching and protecting the company he has built over the last half-century, as his schedule includes overseeing a Broadway musical based on his life, and going to Washington, D.C. next week for the inauguaration of President-elect Barack Obama.

"Whether I own it or not", he tells the Free Press, "whether I make money from it or not, the legacy is still mine. And it's still the legacy of all the artists -- people that are here and not here. And that's what's important to me."

 

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