*On Saturday, November 17, 2012 at The Art Institute of Chicago, award-winning journalist Gwen Ifill conducted an intimate interview with Berry Gordy, Jr., founder of Motown Records, during An Evening with Berry Gordy presented by The HistoryMakers before a live audience that was personal, humorous, candid and insightful.
Ifill’s interview navigated the audience through Gordy’s celebrated life as an entrepreneur, songwriter, record producer, and movie director and producer who has left an indelible influence on music and films both nationally and internationally.
The interview was taped before a live audience and will air on PBS-TV in February 2013 during Black History Month that will shine a light on Gordy’s celebrated life as the founder of Motown Records, once the most successful African American-owned enterprise in the United States.
The music icon’s career has positively impacted the music, television, and movie industries as he groomed and presented such international stars as Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Michael Jackson, the Jackson Five, and Marvin Gaye among many others.
Julieanna Richardson is founder and executive director of The HistoryMakers. The national, non-profit institution develops, preserves, and provides easy online access to an internationally-recognized archival collection of thousands of African American videotaped oral histories.
Richardson served as the event’s executive producer. Suzanne de Passe, former president of Motown Productions, and Charles Randolph-Wright, director of the upcoming Broadway production of Motown: the Musical, served as co-producers. Ray Chew, music director for American Idol, served as the show’s music producer. Music industry powerhouses Universal Music Group, Sony Music, David Geffen, Clarence Avant, and Jerry Moss were major underwriters for the evening.
Some of Motown’s most identifiable performers, producers, and colleagues were in attendance to support Gordy during this historic interview. The evening featured performances by special guests in tribute to the music mogul including R&B songwriter, producer, and singer Valerie Simpson of Ashford & Simpson fame.
Simpson and her late husband Nick Ashford were an important part of the Motown family, having penned such hits as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need to Get By,” and “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.” Simpson was joined by a new generation of Motown’s recording artists including Kem and Janelle Monae.
Suzanne de Passe, who worked closely with Gordy, provided an engaging glance into the unique relationship they have shared for decades. Attendees were also treated to a short scene from the upcoming Broadway production of Motown: the Musical, performed by Valisia Lekae as Diana Ross and Brandon Victor Dixon as Berry Gordy. The musical is slated to open on Broadway in April 2013.
Honorary co-chairs for An Evening with Berry Gordy included Christie Hefner, Clarence Avant, Walter & Shirley Massey, and Richard Parsons. The title sponsor was Comcast NBC Universal. Other major sponsors included Universal Music Group which owns Motown, Sony Music which owns the Motown publishing rights, Discover, Abbott Laboratories, Chicago Tribune, and The Ritz Carlton Chicago. (Photos by Getty Images)
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.