Motown to turn 50January 10th, 2009 - 1:16 pm ICT by Amrit Rashmisrisethi
The soul empire will be turning 50 on Monday and Motown have always been more than music. Now the founders of Motown are searching for its brand of music dubbed the ‘Motown sound’ that remains popular today and the record company’s role in breaking down racial barriers in America.
In Detroit ,founded in 1959 by a songh writer and entrepreneur Berry Gordy using an $800 (S$1,200) family loan, Motown plans a year-long celebration with record releases, documentaries and exhibitions. There is even talk of a Broadway musical in 2010.
Originally called Tamla and operating out of a two-story house, Gordy changed the name to Motown to reflect the auto industry that dominated Detroit.
He often likened his method of grooming black talent to an automobile assembly line that transformed plain metal frames into gleaming motorcars.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Gordy helped to make stars of the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, the Supremes, the Temptations and the Jackson 5.
Motown boasts nearly 200 No. 1 songs worldwide and in its heyday produced classics like ‘My Girl’,'What’s Going On’, ‘Dancing in the Street’ and ‘Superstition’. ‘I think you can hear Motown in almost every song that’s played on radio,’ said Geoff Brown of music magazine Mojo.
‘What Motown did was … take those forms (R&B, jazz, blues) plus gospel, and meld it into the sort of pop market and aim that music both at black and white America,’ he told BBC radio.
Underscoring its role in crossing racial boundaries was ‘Dancing in the Street’ by Martha and the Vandellas, which topped Mojo’s poll of the 100 greatest Motown songs.
The 1964 track was adopted as a civil rights anthem by black campaigners at the time, although lead singer Martha Reeves said the track was about soothing, not stoking, tensions.
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