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Motown Records

A record company founded by Berry Gordy Jr. in Detroit, Michigan on April 14, 1960

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Motown Records celebrates its 50th Anniversary.

  • Apr 14, 2010
A half century ago, a young Detroit entrepreneur named Berry Gordy Jr. decided that he was going to start his own record company.  His idea was a simple one really.  He was going to make records with black artists that appealed to the largest segment of the record buying public which in those days was suburban white teenagers.  Although the odds were clearly against this brash young upstart his formula worked to perfection.  So much so that 50 years later "The Motown Sound" remains a significant force in American popular music.  Remarkably,  the vast majority of the early Motown recordings sound as fresh and exciting today as they were when they were first released a half century ago. 

In the 1960's Motown billed itself as "The Sound of Young America".  If you grew up in that era you realize that It most certainly was.  The fact is that you could not listen to a Top 40 station in those days for more than 10 or 15 minutes without hearing one or more of the great  Motown hits.  It was a great time to be a teen!   The Motown roster of artists reads like a "Who's Who" of 1960's popular music.  I fondly recall growing up with hits by artists like The Four Tops ( "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)"),  The Supremes ("Stop! In The Name of Love")The Temptations ("My Girl"),  Martha & The Vandellas ("Dancing In The Street") and Steve Wonder ("My Cherie Amour")Fantastic stuff!   I started collecting 45's at the dawn of the Motown era and over the years I bought literally hundreds of their singles.    

In the early 1970's Motown left the city of Detroit and headed west to Los Angeles.  Artists like The Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Stevie Wonder continued to churn out the hits.  Meanwhile,  there was a new generation of artists at Motown led by The Jackson 5.  Fronted by a very young Michael JacksonThe Jackson 5 were an immediate sensation and immediately reeled off a string of 4 #1 hits including their dynamite debut single "I Want You Back",  And the rest as they say is history.  A bit later in the decade another talented new group known as The Commodores signed with Motown.  Led by vocalist Lionel Ritchie this group reeled off a string of big hits in the 1970's including "Easy", "Brick House" and "Three Times A Lady" to name but a few.  In the early 1980's, Lionel Ritchie would leave The Commodores to pursue a solo career at Motown.  And the hits just kept on coming!   Monster hits like "Truly",  "You Are" and "Dancing On The Ceiling" helped to make Lionel Ritchie one of top artists of the 1980's.
Now just when it seemed that the Motown magic had begun to fade away forever the label scored a major coup by signing  a fabulous new quartet from Philadelphia that called itself  Boyz II Men.  Their debut album "Cooleyhighharmony" was released in 1993.  This disc was an instant smash that spawned a half dozen hit singles including  the group's debut single "It's Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday", "I'll Make Love To You",  "The End of the Road" as well as a sensational acapella version of the 1950's doo-wop classic "In The Still of The Night".  You gotta love 'em!      

I think that it is fair to say that no collection of American popular music could be considered complete without at least some music from Motown.  As I indicated earlier much of this music sounds just as fresh and exciting today as it did when it was first released back in the 1960s and '70s.  Listening to these classics will help you to understand why "The Motown Sound" continues to resonate with people of all ages.  The Motown catalogue is just chock full of fabulous anthologies by all of their legendary artists.  I would like to take this opportunity on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Motown Records to salute its founder Berry Gordy Jr. for the fantastic company he founded a half century ago.  The music that he helped to create has given people of my generation countless hours of pleasure.  Long live "The Motown Sound"! 
April 14, 2010......Motown Records celebrates its 50th Anniversary today! April 14, 2010......Motown Records celebrates its 50th Anniversary today! April 14, 2010......Motown Records celebrates its 50th Anniversary today! April 14, 2010......Motown Records celebrates its 50th Anniversary today!

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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on I never could … more
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Motown is a record company founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. and incorporated as Motown Record Corporation in Detroit, Michigan, USA, on April 14, 1960. The name, a portmanteau of motor and town, is also a nickname for Detroit. Now headquartered in New York City, Motown is a subsidiary of Universal Motown Republic Group, itself a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, and now operates as Universal Motown. Motown Records was also the name of Gordy's second record label; the first, Tamla Records, began on January 12, 1959.

Motown played an important role in the racial integration of popular music, as it was the first record label owned by an African American to primarily feature African-American artists who achieved crossover success. In the 1960s, Motown and its soul-based subsidiaries were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as The Motown Sound, a style of soul music with a distinct pop influence.

Motown has owned or distributed releases from more than 45 subsidiaries in varying genres, although it is most famous for its releases in the music genres of rhythm and blues, soul, hip hop, and pop. Motown Records left Detroit for Los Angeles in 1972, and remained an independent company until June 28, 1988, when Gordy sold the company to MCA and Boston Ventures (which took over full ownership of Motown in 1991), then to PolyGram in 1994.

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