Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 1: Berry Gordy Jr.

Though there have been a large number of individuals throughout history without whom music would have failed to progress into its current form, there are one or two that stand far above the others for different reasons.  Whether it was due to the time that they were conducting business, or simply the way they went about fostering certain talents, their names often rank beyond those of the actual musicians in terms of importance, and their impact is truly immeasurable.  While the contributions that these icons had on the world of music, there was one man who had an equally significant impact on culture in general, as the work of Berry Gordy Jr. forever changed society as we know it.  Though some may not recognize the name at first, there is not a person on the planet who does not instantly have a number of musical hooks and vocals in their head as soon as they hear the words "Motown Records."  Churning out an unsurpassed string of hit singles, many do not consider the fact that it was many of these songs that cemented the place of the "black musician" within the still predominantly white music business, as well as bringing the more modern form of "pop" music into existence.  From Marvin Gaye to The Jackson 5 to the seemingly endless creativity of The Funk Brothers, it was the vision and dedication of Berry Gordy Jr. that unquestionably altered the entire landscape of music forever.

In many ways, the life of Berry Gordy Jr. and how he found his way to musical success is almost cliché, as the story has been "redone" in so many ways since his time.  Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Gordy dropped out of high school, and began pursuing his passion not only in the world of music, but boxing as well.  Though he was becoming rather successful in the boxing ring, around his twentieth birthday, Gordy realized that he was more likely to have more longstanding and "distinguished" a career within the music industry, so he began to concentrate on this path fully.  After spending a few years in the Army, Gordy attempted to operate a record store, but it failed somewhat quickly, and he was forced to split his time between working at a car factory during the day, and writing songs in the evenings for local groups.  During this period, Gordy met a local music manager named Al Green and would soon provide the song "Reet Petite" for none other than Jackie Wilson.  This was all the foothold that Gordy needed, as within a few years, he was churning out a number of hit songs for a wide range of artists.  However, Gordy soon began heading in a different direction, and this was the period where he met another young singer, William "Smokey" Robinson, and the two would form one of the greatest musical partnerships in the entire history of recorded music.

Soon after his meeting, Berry Gordy Jr. purchased a the home that sits at 2648 West Grand Street in Detroit, and dubbed the place "Hitsville USA."  The first label to operate out of this home was Talma Records, and it soon began releasing now-classic songs from the likes of Eddie Holland, Barrett Strong, and of course, Robinson and his group, The Miracles.  These successes led to a wide range of local artists, like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, and The Four Tops to come to Talma, and within a short period of time, the label was "combined" with its parent label, Motown Records.  For nearly a decade, Motown Records would be the home to many of the most famous artists of the era, and with well over one hundred hit singles, the now-famous name of the recording studio proved to be more than fitting.  However, it is the fact that so many of these songs found massive success well beyond "just" the "black audiences" that were measured at the time that prove the true impact and importance of the label, and one can easily make the argument that Motown Records played a critical role in the overall Civil Rights movement of the 1960's.  Though Gordy would eventually relocate to Los Angeles, the fact remains that his work in Detroit yielded some of the most timeless and outright important recordings in all of history, and one cannot overstate the impact that Berry Gordy Jr. had on both the music industry, as well as society as a whole.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The label is actually Tamla, not Taima.