He’s been around a long time – he celebrated his 83rd birthday on November 28 – and the music he brought to the world is timeless and will live on forever. I’m talking about Motown founder Berry Gordy. While others his age may tend to slow down, Gordy tossed another load of coal in the firebox for full steam ahead for his upcoming Broadway show, “Motown: The Musical.”
Responsible for launching the careers of superstar icons like Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Martha & The Vandellas, and so many, many others on the roster, Gordy recently told a Chicago audience, “I knew there was talent beyond just white voices. There were soulful sounds being made by blacks but no one could hear them because they had nowhere to go to produce the kind of music blacks wanted to hear.” [Los Angeles Sentinel 11/29/12]
In a 2009 interview marking the 50th anniversary of Motown Records, Smokey Robinson said, “Motown is historical. It’s a once in a lifetime musical event. On day one…Berry Gordy said ‘We’re going to make music for the world. We’re not gonna make ‘black’ music; we’re gonna make music that has great stories and great beats. That’s what we started out to do, and we accomplished that.”
Chicago’s non-profit organization, The History Makers, hosted a tribute to Gordy at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was interviewed in front of a live audience by PBS-TV journalist Gwen Ifill. The show is scheduled for airing in the spring of 2013.
A little-known fact: In 2001 Gordy established a relief fund – the Gwendolyn B. Gordy Fund – for former Motown artists, musicians, and writers from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s in need of assistance. He donated $750,000.00 in the name of his late sister.