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Motown Records started 50 years ago. WOWWW!!! What an accomplishment for a man who started out not really knowing what he wanted to do ( sound familiar?).
Believe it or not, Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records was a high school drop out. His first dream was o become a professional boxer (and he wasn't too bad either!) His boxing career was interrupted in 1950, when he was drafted into the United States Army, and fought in the Korean War.
Berry Gordy was relieved of his military duty in 1953. He returned to Detroit, Michigan and opened the 3-D Record Mart. Gordy also worked for the Ford Automobile plant-Lincoln division for a short while. After becoming acquainted with singer Jackie Wilson, he started writing songs. Gordy wrote "Reet Petite" for Jackie Wilson, which was a modest hit. He wrote four more song's for Jackie Wilson, most popularly, "Lonely Teardrops".
Unsatisfied with the pay he received as a writer, he was advised by his good friend William "Smokey" Robinson, that he would be better off if he started his own record company.
Strapped for funds, Gordy went to his family and asked for a $1000.00 loan. Being that he came from a well to do family with very strict morals, and Berry had been known to partake in get rich quick schemes, after long consideration, his family instead loaned him $800.00. And from that loan, "Tamla" records was born on December 14th, 1959!!!
The original roster consisted of The Miracles, Barrett Strong, and the Marvalettes to name a few.
Motown's slogan was "The Sound of Young America". And that is exactly what it became. Motown was the first (and maybe the only) major recording label that was Black owned and Black operated, and had a roster that was predominantly Black. However, Motown did not have a totally black following, as white America were also supporters of The Motown Sound.
The sound that became The Motown Sound was due to Motown's backing band "The Funk Brothers". It is my opinion that The Funk Brothers will never get their full recognition for their contribution. The Funk Brothers consisted of:
The Incomparable James Jamerson
Earl Vandyke, Johnny Griffith, and Joe Hunter
Joe Messina, Robert White, Eddie Willis
Eddie "Bongo" Brown, and Jack Ashford
Benny Benjamin, Uriel Jones, and Richard "Pistol" Allen
To make a very long story short, I just want to pay respect to Berry Gordy for making it against all odds. Because he followed his passion for music the world was introduced to some of the greatest music ever created. Because of his conviction to become who he wanted to be, and not who "they" thought he should be, many youth in the city of Detroit, Michigan got not only job opportunities, but made a world wide difference, and changed lives. Because of an $800.00 loan, that he probably came close to not even getting, the world received, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Dianna Ross, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and so many more.
Motown Records is so much more than a major accomplishment by one man, it is a major movement of the people, that will last longer than the earth itself.
So when you read this think about YOU. Think about your passions, and what it is you really want to do. Think of how many people told Berry Gordy that he was wasting his time, or go back to school, or go back to work at the plant. I believe Berry Gordy knew that there is a difference between "living" and "existence". He chose to have a life by building his dream, rather than suffering and existence at the Ford Motor company. We all benefited from his choice.
The moral of this story is, be courageous enough to fight to make your dreams happen. They may sound silly to others, in fact, your dream WILL sound silly to others- Damn them!!! Do it anyway. I can't count the times I've been told that I'm wasting my time, I should be doing this, I should be doing that. I'm doing the one thing in the whole world that makes me happy....music!! I'm not a musician, or a singer, or a dancer, and probably never will be. However I know there is a place in this business for me, even if I have to create a place, like Berry Gordy did!
One last thing; If you are in the Detroit area, go check out the Hittsville Museum. And if you live in Michigan and you've never been there, GET OFF YOUR ASS AND GO!!!! There's no excuse, this is our history, not only as Black people, but as music lovers and people in general.
I will be posting more blogs about Berry Gordy and Motown as we get closer to the official 50th anniversary on December 14, 2009.
Talk to you all soon!!!