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Forums > Music: Non-Prince > Vanity Fair Article on Motown: It Happened in Hitsville
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Thread started 11/05/08 3:06pm

Timmy84

Vanity Fair Article on Motown: It Happened in Hitsville



The Supremes—Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, and Diana Ross—opening at the Copacabana in New York City, 1965. Courtesy of Motown Museum.

It Happened in Hitsville

After half a century, and several shelves of books about the revolutionary music label, Motown’s story is still obscured by rumors and misconceptions. Founder Berry Gordy Jr. joins a groundbreaking chorus—Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Suzanne de Passe, and other legends—to give an oral history of the Detroit hitmaking machine, the cultural and racial breakthroughs it inspired, and life at “Hitsville,” as well as a true account of Gordy’s relationship with Diana Ross and the rise of the Supremes.

by Lisa Robinson | December 2008

When I was 11 years old I was taking black newspapers into white neighborhoods to sell them, because I liked those newspapers, so I thought other people would like them, too. The first week I sold a lot of papers because I was cute. I took my brother the next week and didn’t sell any. One black kid was cute. Two—a threat to the neighborhood. —Berry Gordy, July 9, 2008.

Callin’ out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat? —“Dancing in the Street,” Martha & the Vandellas.

Motown shaped the culture and did all the things that made the 1960s what they were. So if you don’t understand Motown and the influence it had on a generation of black and white young people, then you can’t understand the United States, you can’t understand America. —Julian Bond, N.A.A.C.P. chairman of the board.

Detroit, Michigan: the two-story building at 2648 West Grand Boulevard looks like an ordinary suburban house—except for the bright-blue hitsville u.s.a. sign above the front porch. The first floor of this national landmark includes a reception area, a room filled with reel-to-reel tape machines and boxes of master tapes, old vending machines filled with candy and cigarettes, a glass-windowed control room, and a recording studio. Studio A, as it is known and preserved in this Motown Historical Museum, was, at the beginning of the 1960s, the room where the Supremes, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, the Four Tops, Martha & the Vandellas, and Stevie Wonder, among others, recorded the hundreds of hits—“Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Heat Wave,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Uptight,” “Bernadette,” “The Tears of a Clown,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Shop Around,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “My Girl,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do”—that changed the musical and racial essence of America.

More than 50 books have been written about Motown, its artists, and founder Berry Gordy Jr., including his 1994 autobiography (To Be Loved), in which he attempted to “set the record straight.” And, still, rumors and misconceptions about Motown and Gordy’s story persist. For 50 years now, Gordy, who started the company in 1958 with an $800 loan from his family, has vigorously guarded the Motown legacy—living a private, some might say reclusive life on his enormous Bel Air estate (formerly owned by Red Skelton). A happy, loquacious man who surrounds himself with friends and family—eight children, two ex-wives (his first wife is deceased), 13 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren—Gordy remained mostly silent even when he and some of his artists were angered by the Hollywood movie Dreamgirls. (Gordy states that DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen is “a friend of mine for 40 years and a man of his word,” and Gordy “was satisfied when DreamWorks took out a full-page ad in the trades” apologizing for any implication that Dreamgirls was about Motown, and stating that the true Motown story has yet to be told.) But, according to Motown veterans and those who worked behind the scenes for the label (who still call Berry Gordy “The Chairman” or Mr. Gordy), including Gordy himself, the reality of Motown from 1958 to the end of the 1960s is different from the myth. And, as someone said to Berry Gordy, if the lion does not tell his story, the hunters will.

Born in 1929, Berry Gordy Jr. has been described as brilliant, charismatic, genius, mentor, gambler, philosopher, gangster, ladies’ man, and father figure. At the age of five, Berry, the seventh of eight children, took classical piano lessons from his uncle. As a teenager and then a young man, he worked in his father’s plastering business, sold cookware, served in the Korean War, worked at the Lincoln Mercury assembly plant, and opened and closed an unsuccessful jazz record store. He tried to sell his songs (his very first song, “You Are You,” was written for, and sent blindly to, “Doris Day, Hollywood,” who years later told Berry she never received it) and, eventually, he wrote hits for Barrett Strong (“Money”) and Jackie Wilson (“Lonely Teardrops”).

In the 1950s, Detroit was jumping. Berry listened to Oscar Peterson and Charlie Parker and hung out in nightclubs like the 20 Grand and the Flame Show Bar, where his sister Gwen had the photo concession and he once met Billie Holiday. He was a somewhat successful featherweight boxer, and never forgot the joy in his neighborhood when Joe Louis beat Max Schmeling for the heavyweight championship of the world. “He was black like me,” says Gordy. “I saw the faces of my mother and father and the people in the street, and later I thought, What can I do in my life to make people that happy?” He chose music over boxing (“Both got girls,” he says) and ultimately would start Motown with the help of family members and Smokey Robinson, a young singer-songwriter he met by chance at an audition and who would help put the label on the national map with the No. 1 R&B hit “Shop Around.” For three decades, Motown was, at first, the only major, then the most important, black-owned music company in a business dominated by white-owned record and distribution companies, and, with more than 100 Top 10 hits in its 1960s heyday, it would revolutionize American popular music.

Berry Gordy felt that the differences in people were way less powerful than their similarities. “When I started in music,” he says, “it was for the cops and robbers, the rich and poor, the black and white, the Jews and the Gentiles. When I went to the white radio stations to get records played, they would laugh at me. They thought I was trying to bring black music to white people, to ‘cross over,’ and I said, ‘Wait a minute—it’s not really black music. It’s music by black stars.’ I refused to be categorized. They called my music all kinds of stuff: rhythm and blues, soul.… And I said, ‘Look, my music is pop. Pop means popular. If you sell a million records, you’re popular.’” The slogan of Motown became “the sound of young America,” but, for Gordy, the sound was “rats, roaches, soul, guts, and love.”

The genius of Berry Gordy was that he perceived a vacuum in the musical culture of the nation and he was able to convince young brothers and sisters like me in the black side of town that this was my music, and at the same time convince white brothers and sisters on the other side of town who were listening to the Beach Boys that Motown was also their music. —Dr. Cornel West, Princeton University.

Berry Gordy: I’ve been protecting the [Motown] legacy for 50 years. This music is the soundtrack of people’s lives, and for people all around the world who love this music, who had kids with this music, who were part of making this music, it is my responsibility to not let these people down. I would never let Marvin Gaye’s memory down. But I knew something would come along—like Dreamgirls—which was the result of so many other stories, and people making up stories, that would try and change the history. And after a while, the truth was so obscure. I decided now that it’s the 50th anniversary it’s time to tell the truth and then put it to bed.

Smokey Robinson, lead singer of the Miracles, producer, songwriter, original vice president of Motown: I protested Dreamgirls to the hilt. They’re not going to talk about Berry like that. They’re not going to downplay Motown. They’re not going to take our legacy and make it something negative [for] kids who didn’t grow up with Motown. To make people think this is Motown and make Berry a gangster, no, they’re not going to get away with that shit.

Martha Reeves, lead singer of Martha & the Vandellas (“Heat Wave,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Dancing in the Street”), currently a member of the Detroit City Council: I thought Dreamgirls was a good story, but it had nothing to do with Motown. Motown was more of a nightmare in that we played horrible places on the chitlin circuit, not that dreamland they show in that movie. We played some places that had horse stables in the back with straw on the floor, places where you had to put fire in the wastebasket to keep warm. At the Apollo Theater, when it was raggedy and dingy and dark, before it was renovated, we were in there cooking hot dogs on the lightbulbs. We would eat popcorn and sardines, and drink a lot of water to try to feel full.

Berry Gordy: When Dreamgirls was on Broadway, I didn’t know about it or care much about it—I never saw it. I think the main person they were attacking on that was Diana [Ross], but when they came out with the film, a whole lot of stuff was changed. It was all based on Motown and based on me. I was the central character; it was all untrue. There were no redeeming factors for [the person based on me]—how can you relate that to somebody who has built all these superstars?

----

(end of part 1 of 5)
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #1 posted 11/05/08 3:08pm

Timmy84



The Temptations (in mirror, left to right, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams, David Ruffin, and Eddie Kendricks) prepare for the Gettin’ Ready cover shoot, 1966. By Frank Dandridge/Courtesy of Motown Museum.

Motown was not a normal company. P. Diddy told me he wouldn’t have been able to do what he’s done had it not been for us. But most of them think that I was a gangster, and I have to tell them, “You’re on the wrong track.” People in gangsta rap come up to me and say, “They got Gotti, but they couldn’t get you,” and I say, “Wait a minute—if you think that’s how Motown was built, you’re wrong, because the principles have to be totally different.” The Motown legacy is there to show them—there is another way. —Berry Gordy, May 15, 2008.

Eddie Holland, lyricist of the hitmaking trio Holland-Dozier-Holland, who wrote and produced hundreds of hits for Motown: All of [the owners of] these record companies, especially the independent companies, were buying songs and putting their names on songs that they didn’t write. Berry Gordy did not put his name on songs he did not write. Berry Gordy never did that, would have never done that—it is not in his DNA. His character is much stronger and much more quality than that. It would have been impossible for Motown to develop if Berry Gordy was not an upright kind of a person.

Smokey Robinson: One of the reasons Berry started Motown was because [the distributors] didn’t pay you [for record sales] in those days, especially if you were fledgling. We started Motown so everybody could get paid. And everybody was paid. The beautiful, wonderful, magnificent, incredible thing about Motown was that we began to bombard them with hits. The same distributors who hadn’t paid at first would pay us in advance just to get our records. The disc jockeys would call us and say, “Could we please have the record first?”

Berry Gordy: I did not believe in payola for Motown when people were fighting for my records. Once a disc jockey played “Shop Around,” the phones lit up; that’s how potent it was.

Lionel Richie, lead singer of the Motown group the Commodores and multi-platinum solo recording artist: In the creative world there were a lot of [black] singers. There weren’t a lot of [black] owners. This guy owned the company. Imagine, this is not happening in the 90s. This is happening during the civil-rights movement, during the 1960s—not exactly the greatest land of opportunity for a black businessman. To be a [black] businessman in America then, here’s political correctness: “Yes, sir, no, sir. Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am.” So here’s somebody who’s saying, “Go to hell.” This man took no shit.

Berry Gordy: I never talked to the Mafia, but the rumor was so strong that I was a part of the Mafia that one time the F.B.I. called me down to their office. So when they called me down to the F.B.I. in Detroit, to the division that handles organized crime, well, who wouldn’t be scared? I was concerned, although I knew I wasn’t [involved in] organized crime unless I was being framed, which wasn’t out of the question. They asked me if I was in the Mafia, and I said no. Then they took me to a board and showed me pictures and charts of the Detroit Mafia families. They said, “We’ve been studying you for years, and we cannot find you in any of these charts or families.” And they said either I was the smartest person they knew or I had no ties to the Mafia.

Stevie Wonder, singer, songwriter, producer: Because Berry Gordy owned the company, it was not “tore up from the floor up.” It was something he built. It was not something that somebody else had and passed on to him; it was his and his family’s and all the people who were part of it who built this thing. That alone gives us a sense of pride.

Smokey Robinson: Way before we started Motown, Berry said, “I’m going to work with you and your group,” and he just turned my whole life around. I played him about 20 of my songs, and he critiqued every song. He told me the songs made no sense because I was talking about five different things in one song; the first verse had nothing to do with the second verse, and the second verse had nothing to do with the bridge. He told me a song has got to be a short book, a small movie, or a short story. He taught me how to structure my songs.

Berry Gordy: At Motown, I hired a white salesman to go to the South. I didn’t have pictures of black artists on the record covers until they became big hits. The Isleys had a cover with two white people on the cover. Smokey’s Mickey’s Monkey had a monkey on the cover. No one knew or cared; they thought it was brilliant.

Stevie Wonder: The competition at Motown was not the competition that said, “I don’t like you.” It was more like the Brill Building: it was a challenge to come up with great music, great songs, and to me that was cool. I love Berry to pieces—Berry Gordy was, for my life, a blessing.

Abdul “Duke” Fakir, sole survivor of the original Four Tops (“Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Bernadette,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”): First thing I did [after our hit] “Baby, I Need Your Loving,” I went to Berry for the advance, because my mama was working as a domestic, and I said I need an advance really bad. Berry said, “What do you need? What for?” I said, “I want to buy my mom a house—she needs it bad.” He said, “How much do you think you need?” I said, “Oh, about $10,000.” He said, “Well, here’s $15,000.” That was the happiest weekend of my life. Bought my mom that house, bought me a Cadillac—powder blue and white.

Otis Williams, sole survivor of the original Temptations (“My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Cloud Nine”): For the longest time, it was that kind of camaraderie, that kind of family vibe. And old Pop Gordy [Berry’s father] would be there, and he would advise us; when I bought my first home, Pop Gordy came out to my house to make sure I had copper pipes.

Suzanne De Passe, former creative assistant to Berry Gordy, Oscar nominee for screenplay for Lady Sings the Blues, Emmy winner for Motown 25: I was booking bands for the Cheetah nightclub, in New York, and when I told Mr. Gordy that I could never get anyone at Motown to call me back, he said maybe they needed to hire me. They flew me to Detroit, first class, on a seven a.m. flight. I was wearing my little Bonwit Teller suit, had an overnight bag, was picked up at the airport by [Berry Gordy’s] driver in a maroon Fleetwood Cadillac. Then they drove me to Hitsville, and I was horrified; my expectation was that it would be a more opulent, grand building.

Shelly Berger, ran the Los Angeles office of Motown, managed the Supremes and the Temptations: My first trip to Detroit, I wasn’t too crazy about the hotel they put me in—the Lee Plaza. I walked in and said, Are they kidding? They’re trying to impress somebody? They rang me, like November of 1965, and of course the deal [to run the L.A. office] wasn’t made until June of 1966, which is typical of Motown. This is really Motown’s 10th anniversary; it’s just taken us 40 years to celebrate it.

At Hitsville, every Friday morning Berry Gordy would hold a “quality control” meeting for the staff to vote on what records to put out. If you were one minute late, you did not get in. Once even Smokey Robinson was locked out.

Berry Gordy: Motown artists were always punctual. Mostly. Well … not Stevie Wonder.

Suzanne De Passe: I worked there from 1968 until I left, in 1991. And once you work for [Berry Gordy], you never don’t work for him. I think everybody who ever worked for him, even if they don’t still, if they get a call and they can, they’ll be there for him. It’s the pull of his personality and it’s definitely love. As corny as it sounds, that whole family thing is real.

Smokey Robinson: In those early days of Motown, people were outside, lined up for auditions. Like American Idol. Berry is a genius and he’s a very charismatic person, always was. And you can see if you follow his lead, most of the time you’re going to come out on top.

Shelly Berger: You cannot categorize Berry Gordy. Berry Gordy is a leader. Berry Gordy is John Kennedy, Bill Clinton; Berry Gordy can get people to follow him. Motown was like a 1950s MGM musical. Berry Gordy would say, My cousin has a barn—let’s put on a musical. And everybody would follow. He’s got charisma to burn. When Berry Gordy wants to get you, you are got. I don’t care if you come in with a white hood on, you are got.

----
(Part 2 of 5)
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #2 posted 11/05/08 3:10pm

Timmy84



The Motortown Revue comes to the Apollo, 1962. Courtsy of Motown Museum.

Duke Fakir: When you signed with Motown, you became part of that family. You’re young and you’re dreaming. We were friends; we played basketball together, we played cards together, we ate together. It wasn’t like, if I got a hit, somebody else ain’t going to get one. Because one after the other, you kept getting hits, and more hits. It just became a wonderful place to make music. There were always sessions going on, 24-7. And the bar just kept getting raised—higher and higher.

Lamont Dozier, along with Eddie and Brian Holland, part of the hitmaking trio Holland-Dozier-Holland: The atmosphere at Motown in the early days was very family-oriented, with the picnics, the company song, the games. But then the competition became fierce, and to stay on top, you had to be on top of your craft.

Suzanne De Passe: There was a great deal of recognition and pride that this music was holding its own against the British Invasion. If you look at the charts when the Beatles were out, the Supremes were right up there. The Four Tops were up there.

Stevie Wonder: I was very excited about being at Motown, being with all those different artists. Martha Reeves was like my big sister.

Smokey Robinson: Berry always made a point of telling us we had to pay our taxes. People think the love at Motown was a myth. People say it could not possibly have been that, and that is exactly what it was, and exactly what it is. When Motown people see each other, there is love in the room.

Berry Gordy: People used to attack me and say it was a conflict of interest: I was the manager, I was the record company, I was the publisher, and I would say, Yes, of course, conflict of interest, but it’s in their favor, you stupid fuck.

Motown taught the artists how to deliver a song in the recording studio and trained them for the stage. The house band—the Funk Brothers—had the extraordinary bassist James Jamerson and drummer Benny Benjamin. Famed choreographer Cholly Atkins was hired to teach dance steps, bandleader Maurice King was the tour conductor, and former actress and modeling-school owner Maxine Powell groomed the acts and showed them how to conduct themselves on- and offstage.

Martha Reeves: None of us was perfect or professional when we first arrived. I was a little boisterous. I might have had a habit of profanity. Maxine Powell had a charm school, and what she came to Motown to teach was self-worth, body language, how you should be at all times photographable.



Berry Gordy and Diana Ross in Las Vegas, circa 1966. By Robert Gordy Jr./Courtesy of Motown Museum.

Maxine Powell, head of the (now closed) Maxine Powell Finishing and Modeling School: Most of the artists were rude and crude and speaking the street language when I met them. Diana Ross and the Supremes thought they knew what direction they wanted to go in. They said they were sophisticated when they got to Motown, but that was not true; sophistication takes years, and young people are not sophisticated. The Supremes were acting snooty, especially Diana Ross. I taught her [about] being gracious and classy, because classy will turn the heads of kings and queens.

Smokey Robinson: I don’t care who you were or who you became, two days a week you had artist development. Marvin Gaye, me, the Supremes, the Temptations.

Duke Fakir: Everyone was scheduled to go to those classes; we were scheduled about three times a week. But they used to call us rebels—we probably went six times in two or three years.

Maxine Powell: I told them they had to be trained to appear in the No. 1 places around the country and even before the Queen of England and the president of the United States. Those youngsters looked at me and said, That woman is crazy: all I want is a hit record.

It was December 27, 1964. I was 10 years old, and I tuned in to watch The Ed Sullivan Show.… It was a moment that changed my life. —Oprah Winfrey, on seeing the Supremes on TV.

Diane Ross (later Diana), Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson were three teenagers from Detroit’s Brewster Projects in a group called the Primettes, who sang backup for the Temptations. They hung around Motown, eventually got signed, were supported by the label for four years before they had a hit, and became Motown’s most commercially successful and biggest international act with No. 1 singles such as “Baby Love,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and “Back in My Arms Again.” When Florence Ballard’s drinking caused problems within the group, she was replaced by Cindy Birdsong, and in time, Diana Ross went solo. And while it may not have been public, it was common knowledge within the Motown family that Diana and Berry were lovers (and that he was the father of Rhonda, one of Diana’s three daughters).

Berry Gordy: Diana Ross was just as cute as she could be. We gave her a job for the summer, and everybody loved her in the company—she was the sweetheart of Motown. She was just so innocent. Ed Sullivan loved her. She was the personality of the group—the big eyes and all. And she was incredible with her showmanship; she was the magic in the group.

Smokey Robinson: There were so many talented kids in our neighborhood: Diana lived four doors down from me; Aretha Franklin lived around the corner—I’ve known her since I’m six years old. The Temptations lived across the avenue. Diana and I dated for a while … long before she got with Berry.… I love her. I know her since she was 10 or 11, so she doesn’t diva me. We love each other.

Stevie Wonder: I loved Diana Ross’s voice. And I had a crush on her; when I came to Motown, she walked me around the building and showed me different things—she was wonderful.

Martha Reeves: I love Ross. That’s what I call her—Ross. When I first got to Hitsville, [the Supremes] weren’t old enough to get in clubs, and sometimes we’d slip her in; I’d pick her up in my car. I sort of took her under my wing.

Suzanne De Passe: Once I was with Cindy Birdsong at the Essex House in New York and the elevator stopped and the doors opened, and there, in a Pucci dress, holding her Maltese puppy, with a Sassoon wig and shoes covered in the same material as the Pucci dress, was the breathtaking Diana Ross—more glamorous than any human thing I’d ever seen in my life. And I stood on the sidewalk and watched Diana get into her own limousine and watched Cindy and Mary get into their limousine together and off they went. I stood there like the poor little match girl, thinking, one day …

Berry Gordy: It’s very clear why I fell in love with Diana—because she was my star, and she came from the bottom up. With her it was not only fun, it was just like heaven working with her because she would surpass anything … and she always kept her self-esteem. She always told me, “If you think it, I can do it.” And she did.

Lamont Dozier: We were working for the Marvelettes until that fateful day when [Marvelette] Gladys Horton did not want to record “Where Did Our Love Go.” I gave the track to the “no-hit Supremes,” who did record the song, which turned out to be the first No. 1 out of 12 No. 1s for the group.

Eddie Holland: After “Where Did Our Love Go” became a hit, [the director of sales] said we have to keep these girls hot. They’re the flagship of this company, because they’re spreading over to such a wide audience.

Smokey Robinson: Diana Ross was the most hardworking, most diligent student at artist development. Everybody else would be gone and she would still be there. Diana Ross wanted to be … Diana Ross.

Shelly Berger: The bigger [the Supremes] got, the more difficult it was for Florence. She was drunk; she was missing shows; she was detrimental to the group.

Berry Gordy: It just came time when it was best for them to split up. I don’t really remember my part in that—I was always objective. The fact that I went with Diana Ross—she never took advantage of that and I never gave her an advantage. She didn’t want any favors; she wanted to do what was right. If she got more attention at Motown, it was because she was good; it was all about the work. That’s why we broke up. We always said [we would] if [the relationship] came in the way of her work. I knew she wanted to be a superstar.

Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation—ball of confusion … that’s what the world is today. —“Ball of Confusion,” the Temptations.

To some in the turbulent 1960s, Motown was, as Otis Williams says, “a soothing ointment to a troubled soul.” To others, it was seductive pop music—more sophisticated and accessible to a white audience than the raw, gritty sounds of Stax Records or James Brown. It was infiltration; the hits were all over the radio, and the stars were on The Ed Sullivan Show and at the Copacabana. The Beatles covered the Berry Gordy compositions “Money” and “Do You Love Me.” And the Motortown Revue (the Temptations, Martha & the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Supremes, the Four Tops) got on a bus and set off across America, into a still-segregated South, where they encountered racial unrest, protest marches, and violence. When the Temptations first performed in some southern states in the mid-1960s, a rope down the middle of the audience separated blacks from whites; by the time the Temptations returned in 1968—five years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recorded his “I Have a Dream” speech for Motown’s Black Forum label—that rope was gone.

----
(Part 3 of 5)
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #3 posted 11/05/08 3:12pm

Timmy84



Berry Gordy and Stevie Wonder listen to a tape. By Joe Flowers/Courtesy of Motown Museum; digital colorization by Lorna Clark.

Berry Gordy: For black people, bigotry was a fact of life. We grew up with that—that’s why Diana and I started calling each other “Black.” No one wanted to be called black at that time—“black” was considered a negative word in the 60s among the people we knew. This was before black was beautiful. People said “Negro.” But I said, “A word is a word, and I want ‘black’ to mean love.” Diana called me “Black” and I called her “Black.” We wanted people to be proud of being black.

Stevie Wonder: I was eager when I was told that I’d go out on tour, but the excitement was sort of cut short by the fact that there was a performance in Alabama and the [groups] were on the bus—can’t remember who it was—and I heard that [someone] shot at the bus. It scared me. It was a scary situation.

Martha Reeves: I had a shotgun put in my face. I was trying to get off the bus to use the restroom. He was right there with the gun, saying, “Don’t another one of you niggers get off that bus.” We said, “We want to use the restroom.” And he said, “You better get out of here.” One of the guys said, “I’m Bobby Rogers of the Miracles. Don’t you know about the Miracles?” And he says, “Get back on that bus,” called the sheriff, says, “These niggers are trying to take over my filling station.” He didn’t know we were down there to make music, not war. He thought, because there’s a bunch of black people on the bus, we were Freedom Riders.

Otis Williams: We went to places in the South where they would tell us, “We don’t serve niggers. You can’t eat here, can’t use the bathroom.” We’d have to go back out, get on the bus, the bus would have to go down the road and everybody had to go out into the bushes. The Four Tops and us had to watch each other; when the Tops was on, the Temps would stand on the side of the stage with bats or whatever. I didn’t take guns with me, but some of the Tops did.

Martha Reeves: We took our baths and showers mostly in Greyhound bus stations and train stations. That’s how we kept clean. But [later on] when we got to the venues and we started singing, people would change, attitudes would change. Once we got in there and sang the music, people would turn into warm human beings, as opposed to people putting the dogs on you and chasing you around with billy clubs.

Shelly Berger: After I started managing the Temptations, when they toured in the South, I had a clause in our contract that if the audience was not integrated we didn’t have to play and we had to get paid.

Martha Reeves: There was a time when guards stood in front of the stages with clubs, and whether it was a white person or a black person, if they got up to intermingle in the audience, they’d club them. Then Smokey Robinson, who would open the show, said, “Wait a minute—I want you guards to stand back. This is good music, it’s dance music, and people are going to get excited, but they’re not going to fight or cause any harm to one another. So don’t hit another person with those sticks.” He stood up for us, and I love him forever for that.

Smokey Robinson: In Detroit you could not go into the white areas unless you proved you worked for somebody. But the kids in those areas would write us letters: “We’ve got your music, we love your music, we’re so glad you’re making music, but our parents don’t know we have it, because they’d make us get rid of it.” A year or so down the line, we’re getting letters from the parents: “Our kids turned us on to your music. We’re so glad you’re in business; your music is so uplifting.”

Edna Anderson-Owens, Berry Gordy’s administrative assistant in 1972, currently co-C.E.O. of the Gordy Company: I had come out of the civil-rights movement, had come from the South. I never thought of [Motown] as just being a record company, even as an entertainment company. It was more than an entertainment company. In a sense it replaced the civil-rights movement for me; it became another movement. It became more of a cause.

In 1967, Holland-Dozier-Holland wanted to leave Motown for another label a year before their contract was up. Berry Gordy sued the trio for $4 million. HDH countersued for $22 million. The nasty lawsuits and countersuits went on for more than 30 years before they ended, in 2004.

Berry Gordy: I love these guys and they love me, but they obviously wanted to get away so bad and do their thing. All my people said, “Just give them a few thousand dollars and the case is over.” My legal fees were astronomical, but I said, “No, I cannot settle this for anything”—it [would] mean they were right.

Eddie Holland: Berry Gordy was paying artists, producers, and writers when most companies, including the majors, were not doing so. We were making more money than our peers were making. By far. But [later], you get lawyers involved, and it took on a life of its own.

Berry Gordy: Harold Noveck was my tax attorney, and his brother Sidney was my accountant. Anytime we got in any trouble we didn’t worry about anything, because [the Novecks] would spend a thousand dollars to find a penny. The books had to balance, all the time. So whenever I would sue somebody or someone would say the artist didn’t get paid, I’d say, “Hey, you’re barking up the wrong tree.” In order to protect the legacy, if somebody would tell an outright lie, I would sue them and I would always win, because the truth will win if you can afford to fight for it.

Shelly Berger: I used to refer to the Noveck brothers as the Malach Hamovis—that’s Yiddish for the Angels of Death. They were very, very conservative. Since Motown’s fiscal year was on the calendar year, December 31 was the end of the fiscal year, and each year I’d book the Supremes in some great place where we could all go for Christmas and New Year’s and bring our families—whether it was Tahoe or Miami. Then the Noveck brothers would show up on December 26 to tell Berry Gordy, “You’re going to lose everything and you’re insolvent.” So … for four days we’re living in absolute misery, because the Malach Hamovis had come.

Lamont Dozier: The lawsuit was just our way of taking care of business that needed to be taken care of—just like Berry had to take care of his business which resulted in the lawsuit. Business is business, love is love.

Eddie Holland: Think in terms of a family member that you have a disagreement with. It was a molehill turning into a mountain. He’s a fighter, I’m a fighter, and so, through the lawyers, we fought for many, many years, and he wouldn’t bend and I wouldn’t bend. That’s what happens when you get two bulls locking horns. But the love never left.

Brother, brother … there’s far too many of you dying. —“What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye.

Marvin Gaye started out at Motown as a drummer who wanted to sing Sinatra-style ballads. Ultimately, he had R&B-styled and pop hits and became Motown’s sex symbol.

Berry Gordy: Marvin had a divided soul. He looked upon me as a father figure and friend, but he wanted to have his own independence, and he would disagree with you all the time just for the sake of disagreeing. At the same time, he was a pure, wonderful, spiritual person who was looking for truth, honesty, and love. But I had major fights with Marvin Gaye because he did not think it was legal to have to pay taxes. He was convinced that it was not lawful, and I said, “Well, I don’t want to debate that with you, Marvin, but I do know if you don’t pay your taxes, you’re going to jail.”

Eddie Holland: Marvin was quick, easy to work with. He had a magnificent ear. He had a magnificent talent. He was the only artist I’ve ever worked with in my life that could hear me sing the song one time and say, “O.K., give it here.”

Berry Gordy: I heard the album [What’s Going On], and I thought it was really meaningful, but he was a pop singer, and I told him, “Marvin, think about your great image that you built up: do you really want to talk about police brutality?” I could see he had pain and passion and he wanted to awaken the minds of men. He said, “B.G., you gotta let me do this,” and I was really hesitant. Not for me, but for him. I didn’t want his career to be gone. I said, “O.K., Marvin, but if it doesn’t work, you’ll learn something, and if it does work, I’ll learn something.” So I learned something.

----

(Part 4 of 5)
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #4 posted 11/05/08 3:13pm

Timmy84

ABC—easy as 1-2-3. —“ABC,” the Jackson 5.

The Jackson 5 were five brothers—Jackie, Jermaine, Tito, Marlon, and lead singer Michael, who was nine years old at the time—from Gary, Indiana, who had been seen at the Apollo Amateur Night in New York City by Motown musician Bobby Taylor [of the Vancouvers] and drove with their father, Joe Jackson, to Detroit to try to get an audition with Berry Gordy.

Suzanne De Passe: I was in my apartment at 1300 East Lafayette Street in Detroit—where many of the Motown artists lived—and Bobby Taylor called up and asked me to come down to his apartment, he wanted me to see something. I said no; I wasn’t about to go to a man’s apartment. But he said, “Come on,” so I did, and he opened the door and there were all these kids sort of strewn across his living room. He clapped his hands and went, “O.K., everybody, this is Suzanne de Passe and she works for Berry Gordy and you need to sing for her because she can get you the audition.” They sang and I was blown away. So the next day I told Mr. Gordy on the phone what I’d seen. And I said, “I think you should sign them. These kids—” And he said, “Kids? I don’t want any kids. You know how much trouble it is with Stevie Wonder and the teachers, and when you’re a minor you have to have a special chaperone, and court approval of the contract, and it is a problem.” So he said no. I had to really muster up all my courage to go back to him and say, “Really, I don’t think you can afford not to see these kids.” Finally he agreed to see them.

Lionel Richie: Suzanne’s assignment was to take this new group called the Jackson 5 out on tour, and she was looking for an opening act. They set up an audition at Lloyd Price’s Turntable, and she came in and basically saw the Commodores play. I was the novelty singer—I only did two songs: “Wichita Lineman” and “Little Green Apples.” We got the gig, but what helped us tremendously was they allowed us to be in the room with them while Suzanne was briefing them on how to deliver their stage show; it was the education of life. She had to teach them how to put their place settings on the table so when they ate with royalty they would know how to do the silverware. You got the etiquette course while you got the singing and dancing. What I learned most was whatever you do, if you sing, dance, juggle, whatever it is, you do it in the first song. Because they may not stick around for the second one.

Suzanne De Passe: The extraordinary part for me was to be a witness to the incredible impact that the Jackson 5 had on the public and the public had on them. When we started out we could go everywhere—we could go shopping, we could go get hamburgers, we could go to rehearsal. And within a very short time we were mobbed and could go nowhere.

Lionel Richie: This little kid [Michael] did everything in the first song. I kept waiting for Suzanne to tell me what the real secret was, that Michael was a midget, because it couldn’t be anything else. Then I realized, That’s a real 12-year-old kid. I would watch him play with water balloons backstage, anything that kids do, and then he’d walk onstage and turn into this full-grown entertaining monster.

Suzanne De Passe: I had no mechanism to measure the magnitude of what I was doing. I was killing myself working, but I was responsible for everything with the Jackson 5—except the records—for what was to become one of the most seminal groups to influence young black kids ever.

Smokey Robinson: I’ve known Michael since he was 10 or 11. He is the best who ever did it. The singing and the dancing and the records—the whole package. But somewhere … he just got lost. It’s easy to do.

By the end of the 1960s, Berry Gordy felt he’d done everything he could do in Detroit, and with an eye toward movies and television, he relocated Motown to Los Angeles. Some—Suzanne, Smokey, Diana, Stevie—followed him. Others, back in Detroit, felt betrayed. Acts eventually left for other labels, among them Marvin, the Jacksons, and, after starring in the Gordy-produced, five-time-Oscar-nominated Lady Sings the Blues and the Gordy-directed Mahogany, Diana Ross. New artists joined the label, but it was never the same, and by 1988, Berry Gordy was tapped out financially and drained emotionally. Told by the Noveck brothers that he was insolvent, millions of dollars in debt, he sold the Motown name, record catalogue, master recordings, and artists’ contracts to MCA Records for $61 million. (Five years later, Polygram bought it from MCA for $325 million.) In 1997, Gordy sold one-half of his Jobete publishing company to EMI for $132 million, and in 2003 and 2004 he sold the other half to EMI for a total of $188 million. After initial reluctance, Stevie Wonder, who had a clause in his contract that gave him the right to approve or block any sale of Motown, finally gave Gordy his blessing but, to this day, is a recording artist on the Motown label, now a part of the Universal Music Group

Stevie Wonder: We just had to work [the business] out, but I stayed at Motown because, more than any other company, they gave me my freedom. Because they knew me, and Berry loved me and I loved him.

Edna Anderson-Owens: The Motown music spoke to every walk of life. Motown was colorless. And the whole Motown thing was not heavy-handed or hard-hitting—it was very subtle, because you were seeing people in beautiful gowns with beautiful behavior. It was another kind of thing that came through. Anytime there’s somebody successful and representing you well, you’re proud.

Smokey Robinson: When I saw that Motown was beating Berry up and beating him down, and he was getting these calls from the black leaders telling him not to sell—“It’s our heritage”—well, he’s my best friend, fuck Motown. I went to him and told him to sell this sucker and go buy your island. An island with a moat. And surround your island with warriors. And dare somebody to call you and even ask you about a record.

Stevie Wonder: Motown brought people together; it had this infectious kind of music, and before you knew it you were clapping along to it and rocking to it, and the songs were all positive. Even if you had a love song, there was something to learn from it.

Berry Gordy: Motown educated people through song. You have no control over your emotions when you hear a song—it makes you dance, makes you sing, makes you happy, sad. We just wanted to do music for the world. Motown is a magical something that has never been seen before and will never be seen again. Because the world has changed for the worse. And to have a company like that is probably impossible now. It was too simple to be believed.

Edna Anderson-Owens: I wanted [Motown] to be respected throughout the world for what it is. I’m very proud to say I’ve been involved with this. It’s like I had an opportunity to walk with Dr. King; it has such great meaning throughout the world. It ultimately satisfied my quest for being a proud black person.

Martha Reeves: You can’t really have a good house party unless you play some Motown.

Lisa Robinson is a Vanity Fair contributing editor and music writer.

----
(Part 5 of 5)
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #5 posted 11/05/08 3:21pm

Timmy84

The Monarchs of Motown
Headlined by the tight-as-ever duo of Berry Gordy Jr. and Smokey Robinson, whose friendship has spanned more than five decades, an even dozen of the men and women who launched Motown into music history pose for Annie Leibovitz, marking a half-century since the hits began zooming out of Hitsville U.S.A. From the stars to the songsmiths to the lady who taught everyone how to behave, they’ve survived their legendary success with style and talent to spare.




BERRY GORDY JR. AND SMOKEY ROBINSON The Soul Men
Gordy: Motown founder and chairman of the board, producer, songwriter, multi-media mogul. Robinson: songwriter, singer, producer, Motown executive, and Miracle in chief. Gordy: Grammy Industry Icons award, 2008; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1988. Robinson: 20 solo albums (two gold) and 35 albums with the Miracles; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1987; Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, 1999; Kennedy Center honoree, 2006.

The friendship of Gordy and Robinson pre-dates the existence of Motown, going back to ‘57, when the former, who’d already written hits for soul smoothie Jackie Wilson, met the latter, the honey-piped leader of a Detroit vocal group called the Matadors. Robinson encouraged Gordy to start a label of his own. Not so long thereafter, in 1960, a song the two friends wrote together, “Shop Around,” became a No. 1 R&B hit for Robinson’s group, renamed the Miracles, and the first million seller for Gordy’s label, Motown. The quick success that followed—with Gordy invigorating and racially integrating the 1960s pop landscape, and Robinson composing gem after gem for the Miracles (e.g., “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Ooo Baby Baby,” and “The Tears of a Clown”) and for others (e.g., Mary Wells’s “My Guy,” the Temptations’ “My Girl,” and Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar”)—might easily have led to swelled heads and strained relations. But Gordy and Robinson, now 78 and 68, remain as tight as ever—regularly meeting up for ferociously competitive games of chess and good-natured bouts of musical one-upmanship. (They sang together throughout this photo shoot.) In the Motown universe, Gordy and Robinson are legends, reverently invoked as “the Chairman” and “Smokey.” But to each other, they’re simply “Berry” and “Smoke.” Photographed at Gordy’s home in Bel Air, California.



MARTHA REEVES AND MAXINE POWELL The Sophisticated Ladies
Reeves: singer, public servant. Powell: etiquette and self-improvement consultant. Reeves: five solo albums and 16 albums with the Vandellas; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with Vandellas Rosalind Ashford, Annette Sterling, Betty Kelly, and Lois Reeves, in 1995.

What exactly is a Vandella anyway? As Martha Reeves has explained many times, the name of her group is a composite of Van Dyke Street, a well-known thoroughfare in Detroit, and Della Reese, one of her favorite singers. Urban grit and gospelly guts: an apt and concise characterization of the Martha & the Vandellas sound. Martha and her girls bided their time as background singers before Berry Gordy awarded them a contract of their own. And when stardom beckoned, so did sessions with Powell, the entrepreneurial founder of Detroit’s Maxine Powell Finishing and Modeling School, which placed black models in the Big Three automakers’ ad campaigns. Gordy retained the elegant, eloquent Powell to teach the various Vandellas, Supremes, and Marvelettes how to carry themselves and move gracefully in their bouffants and shifts. Both Powell and Reeves have heeded Martha’s “Dancing in the Street” command “Don’t forget the Motor City”—the former still teaches the occasional etiquette class in Detroit, while the latter has been a city councilwoman there since her election in 2005. Photographed in the alley behind Motown’s “Hitsville U.S.A.” building in Detroit.



ABDUL “DUKE” FAKIR AND OTIS WILLIAMS The Harmonizers
Fakir (first tenor, the Four Tops): 44 albums (one gold); inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Williams (second tenor/baritone, the Temptations): 72 albums (13 gold, five platinum, one multi-platinum); inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

The skinny-lapeled suits, the synchronized steps, the mellifluous interplay of lead and backing vocals—these were the hallmarks of Motown’s finest male groups of the 60s, the Four Tops and the Temptations. Fakir and Williams were not the guys who stood stage left and sang lead—that would have been Levi Stubbs for the Tops and David Ruffin for the Temptations—but they were the Steady Eddies of their outfits, and it is they who carry on touring with new incarnations of their groups. For Fakir, it’s a matter of perpetuating the upbeat Holland-Dozier-Holland pop of the Tops’ heyday—e.g., “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch),” “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” and “Bernadette”—in the absence of his deceased compadres Stubbs, Lawrence Payton, and Obie Benson. For Williams, the sole surviving member of the Temptations’ “Classic Five” lineup of the mid-60s, it’s an opportunity to perform his star-crossed group’s seminal hits “My Girl,” “Get Ready,” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” as well as their groundbreaking “psychedelic soul” output of later years (“Ball of Confusion,” “Cloud Nine,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”), without the dissension and drug issues that made their story fodder for an Emmy-winning TV mini-series in 1998. Photographed in Studio A of Motown’s original “Hitsville U.S.A.” building in Detroit.



SUZANNE DE PASSE AND LIONEL RICHIE The Glitz Squad
De Passe: executive, movie and television producer, screenwriter. Richie: singer, songwriter, musician, and ambassador of love. De Passe: two Emmy Awards and one Oscar nomination (for co-screenwriting Lady Sings the Blues). Richie: 16 solo albums (four gold, two platinum, three multi-platinum) and 19 albums with the Commodores (three gold, three platinum); four Grammys; one Oscar for best original song, for “Say You, Say Me” (1985, from White Nights).

With her model looks, swish of blond hair, and Rodeo Drive wardrobe, de Passe is the Jackie Collins heroine of the Motown saga: a smart, pretty girl who started out as a booker at New York’s Cheetah Club and worked her way up into Hollywood’s inner circle. Joining Berry Gordy’s staff in early 1968—just ahead of the label’s L.A. years—de Passe cut quite the swath, signing and grooming a young act called the Jackson 5 and a funk band called the Commodores. Subsequently, she spearheaded Motown’s expansion into film and television, co-writing the 1972 Billie Holiday biopic, Lady Sings the Blues, and producing 1983’s landmark Motown 25 TV special, the high-water mark of Michael Jackson’s career. Among de Passe’s shrewdest triumphs was her cultivation of the Commodores’ saxophonist, Lionel Richie, as a balladeer. With the make-out anthems “Three Times a Lady” and “Still,” Richie kept his group and label relevant in the late 1970s. And with his smash solo album Can’t Slow Down (1983), Richie kept Motown in the thick of the 80s charts alongside Jackson (with whom he wrote “We Are the World”) and Prince. The preternaturally upbeat Richie has since acquired a huge international following, particularly in the Arab world, where he is the benign face of Western culture, while de Passe, who bought out Motown’s film and TV interests from Gordy, remains an active producer whose credits include the network mini-series Lonesome Dove, Streets of Laredo, and Dead Man’s Walk and the Cinemax series Zane’s Sex Chronicles. Photographed by Richie’s pool in Beverly Hills, California.



HOLLAND-DOZIER-HOLLAND The Hitmakers
Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland, and Eddie Holland: songsmiths and producers extraordinaires. More than 200 songs; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

The sweet spot in Motown history is 1963–67, when the label was still firmly rooted in Detroit and its roster was so fertile with chartbusting talent that the city truly was Hitsville, U.S.A. Not uncoincidentally, the signature songwriting team of this era was Holland-Dozier-Holland, the architects of the Supremes’ big hits (among them “Baby Love,” “Where Did Our Love Go,” and “Stop! In the Name of Love”) and such standards-to-be as the Isley Brothers’ “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)” and Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You).” Big brother Eddie Holland wrote the lyrics; little brother Brian Holland and pal Lamont Dozier came up with the hooks and arrangements. And all three collaborated on their songs’ production, resulting in such planet-size masterworks as Martha & the Vandellas’ “Nowhere to Run” and the Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There”—songs that sounded fantastic coming out of car radios. Things got ugly and litigious between HDH and Berry Gordy in the late 1960s, when the trio acrimoniously parted ways with Motown over money issues, but time has healed those old wounds, and now comes news that HDH has been re-activated as a songwriting entity. Together, the Hollands and Dozier are at work on the score for next year’s Broadway-bound musical version of the movie The First Wives Club. Photographed at Madilyn Clark Studios in Burbank, California.



STEVIE WONDER The Innervisionary
Singer, composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, harmonica virtuoso. Forty-five albums (five gold, five platinum, two multi-platinum); 25 Grammy Awards (not including the one for lifetime achievement), and one Oscar for best original song (“I Just Called to Say I Love You,” 1984); inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

Wonder is the only old-school Motown artiste never to have strayed from the label; he signed on in 1961, when he was 11 years old, and is still under contract today. Think Motown got a good return on its investment? Still, you might have been forgiven in 1963 for thinking that the blind, grinning, hip-swiveling, pre-adolescent dynamo who sang “Fingertips (Pt. 2)” was a one-hit wonder. Not even Berry Gordy envisioned that his child star would mature into a creative force of nature. He initially resisted Wonder’s entreaties, when the singer reached his 20s, to be liberated from the strictures of the Motown production line. But when Gordy relented, what he got was the most productive, intensive, and gobsmacking run of albums by a recording artist since the Beatles’ from A Hard Day’s Night through Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Between 1972 and 1976, Wonder put out five albums—Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, and Songs in the Key of Life (the last a double)—that remain the gold standard of pop-soul: a gorgeous sprawl of love songs, social consciousness, progressive Moog sounds, and Clavinet-driven funk workouts. Wonder could have coasted on this period alone, but in the years since, he’s shown a knack for staying forever current: as the “Master Blaster,” as a movie scorer, as one of the funniest-ever hosts of Saturday Night Live, as a social activist, and as a live act who, still, at age 58, puts on a show that is—sorry—blindingly good. Photographed at Wonderland Studio in Los Angeles in the Rolls-Royce given to him by Oprah Winfrey in gratitude for his performing at her 50th-birthday party.
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #6 posted 11/05/08 4:39pm

bboy87

Although I have certain feelings towards Berry, I've always had alot of love and respect for his drive and how much he's helped black music


Not to mention he's the one who gave the world 2 of my favorite artists of all time cool
Punk Mistress Certified FAMF

"We may deify or demonize them but not ignore them. And we call them genius, because they are the people who change the world."

http://jaywonder.tumblr.com/
Reply #7 posted 11/05/08 5:53pm

Timmy84

Amen to that.

Mine's are probably the same as yours:

Marvin & Michael cool
[Edited 11/5/08 17:54pm]
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #8 posted 11/05/08 6:14pm

phunkdaddy

Excellent stories and photos. I like all of these artists but motown
wise i was a huge fan of the commodores growing up.
Reply #9 posted 11/05/08 6:20pm

bboy87

Timmy84 said:

Amen to that.

Mine's are probably the same as yours:

Marvin & Michael cool
[Edited 11/5/08 17:54pm]

Michael
Stevie
Marvin


and let's not forget El! lol
Punk Mistress Certified FAMF

"We may deify or demonize them but not ignore them. And we call them genius, because they are the people who change the world."

http://jaywonder.tumblr.com/
Reply #10 posted 11/05/08 6:31pm

theAudience

"Ya see, we're not interested in what you know...but what you are willing to learn. C'mon y'all."
Reply #11 posted 11/05/08 6:36pm

phunkdaddy

bboy87 said:

Timmy84 said:

Amen to that.

Mine's are probably the same as yours:

Marvin & Michael cool
[Edited 11/5/08 17:54pm]

Michael
Stevie
Marvin


and let's not forget El! lol


Yeah how the hell can we forget stevie. Man i was just listening
to stevie's Music of my mind cd for the first time last night.
That shit is incredible. I'm bogged down in work. I can't wait
til friday to listen to it again.
Reply #12 posted 11/05/08 6:51pm

Timmy84

phunkdaddy said:

bboy87 said:


Michael
Stevie
Marvin


and let's not forget El! lol


Yeah how the hell can we forget stevie. Man i was just listening
to stevie's Music of my mind cd for the first time last night.
That shit is incredible. I'm bogged down in work. I can't wait
til friday to listen to it again.


That's right! Stevie is definitely one of my all-time favorites. smile

Rick James is also still the ish. nod
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #13 posted 11/05/08 8:23pm

shesoffthewall

The greatest label and some of the greatest music ever. Thank you Berry.
Reply #14 posted 11/05/08 10:03pm

motownlover

shesoffthewall said:

The greatest label and some of the greatest music ever. Thank you Berry.

yes indeed wink i play my self some motown almost everyday
Reply #15 posted 11/05/08 10:17pm

Timmy84

Motown had some of the most powerful music I ever heard. That's why I ride with 'em.
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #16 posted 11/05/08 10:42pm

NMusiqNSoul

Timeless that's the first thing that comes to mind. Motown is incredible, I wanna credit the Funk Brothers too for playing on so many of the records. AOL Radio has a station called Motown Sound it's pretty cool. Motown is the best.
Reply #17 posted 11/05/08 10:48pm

Timmy84

NMusiqNSoul said:

Timeless that's the first thing that comes to mind. Motown is incredible, I wanna credit the Funk Brothers too for playing on so many of the records. AOL Radio has a station called Motown Sound it's pretty cool. Motown is the best.


I agree, the Funk Brothers help to make the songs sizzle. nod
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #18 posted 11/05/08 11:01pm

bboy87

Does Berry have any say anymore? Like do they still need his permission on anything? What does he still own?

and when are they gonna stop fuckin' 'round and release more J5 unreleased material?! lol
Punk Mistress Certified FAMF

"We may deify or demonize them but not ignore them. And we call them genius, because they are the people who change the world."

http://jaywonder.tumblr.com/
Reply #19 posted 11/05/08 11:02pm

Timmy84

bboy87 said:

Does Berry have any say anymore? Like do they still need his permission on anything? What does he still own?

and when are they gonna stop fuckin' 'round and release more J5 unreleased material?! lol


Berry owns the publishing rights but I think Universal has all the vintage Motown stuff.
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #20 posted 11/05/08 11:08pm

bboy87

Timmy84 said:

bboy87 said:

Does Berry have any say anymore? Like do they still need his permission on anything? What does he still own?

and when are they gonna stop fuckin' 'round and release more J5 unreleased material?! lol


Berry owns the publishing rights but I think Universal has all the vintage Motown stuff.

He sold the Jobete catalog but he still owns the rights? interesting?

MJ tried to buy it from him back in '89

and that's some bullshit how he sold Motown for 61mil but Polygram sold it for like 5 times that amount mad
Punk Mistress Certified FAMF

"We may deify or demonize them but not ignore them. And we call them genius, because they are the people who change the world."

http://jaywonder.tumblr.com/
Reply #21 posted 11/05/08 11:10pm

Timmy84

bboy87 said:

Timmy84 said:



Berry owns the publishing rights but I think Universal has all the vintage Motown stuff.

He sold the Jobete catalog but he still owns the rights? interesting?

MJ tried to buy it from him back in '89

and that's some bullshit how he sold Motown for 61mil but Polygram sold it for like 5 times that amount mad


That is interesting. Yeah I think Berry owns the masters if that makes any sense. I don't know... lol

The fucked up thing about Berry selling Motown in '88 was he was trying to be like Richard Branson and, I guess, try to do something with balloons or something. I done forgot what it was but Blender had info on it. lol
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #22 posted 11/06/08 5:47am

funksterr

Glad to hear BG and Smoke speak out about this Motown mob and gangsters nonsense.
Reply #23 posted 11/06/08 5:57am

motownlover

Smokey Robinson: I’ve known Michael since he was 10 or 11. He is the best who ever did it. The singing and the dancing and the records—the whole package. But somewhere … he just got lost. It’s easy to do


so true
Reply #24 posted 11/06/08 11:48am

motownlover

too bad motown is far from what it has been . the family company is gone so are the wonderfull artists
Reply #25 posted 11/06/08 3:17pm

Slave2daGroove

O.K. So this article gave me a little more respect for BG then I've always had, I need to read his bio now.

The thing that I just can't get past is the way the Funk Brothers were treated when they took Motown to LA.

Maybe he sheds a little light on that and how he felt watching "Standing in the Shadows of Motown".

I will be buying this magazine for this article.

Great post and thanks for taking the time to break it up so well.

clapping
Can't stop the groove...
Reply #26 posted 11/06/08 3:20pm

Slave2daGroove

Thanks for my new Sig too lol
Can't stop the groove...
Reply #27 posted 11/06/08 3:28pm

Timmy84

Slave2daGroove said:

Thanks for my new Sig too lol


You're very welcome. lol
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #28 posted 11/06/08 4:01pm

Thebigpill

Cool article Tim. Thanks for posting...
Reply #29 posted 11/07/08 2:13am

motownlover

are smokey , diana ross , H-D-H still active?
Reply #30 posted 11/07/08 2:36am

Harlepolis

SUZANNE DE PASSE love

Reply #31 posted 11/07/08 2:40am

FuNkeNsteiN

Thanks for posting this, Timmy, it was a very interesting read.
Liked the photos too! cool
It is not known why FuNkeNsteiN capitalizes his name as he does, though some speculate sunlight deficiency caused by the most pimpified white guy afro in Nordic history.

- Lammastide
Reply #32 posted 11/07/08 2:43am

FuNkeNsteiN

motownlover said:

are smokey , diana ross , H-D-H still active?

Smokey released an album in 2006, entitled 'Timeless Love'. I reckon he still gigs too.
It is not known why FuNkeNsteiN capitalizes his name as he does, though some speculate sunlight deficiency caused by the most pimpified white guy afro in Nordic history.

- Lammastide
Reply #33 posted 11/07/08 10:44am

Timmy84

Harlepolis said:

SUZANNE DE PASSE love



Nice photo of BG, MJ and Suzanne. smile
"You were born free, you got fucked out of half of it, and you wave a flag celebrating it." -- Doug Stanhope flag


"I don't sound like nobody." -- Elvis Presley
Reply #34 posted 11/07/08 2:39pm

lameless

I LOVE reading about Motown. Thanks for sharing!

I wish I was alive back then...I could have been one of the Vandellas or something. Just to be in that atmosphere...
The ultimate THREAD-KILLER. You won't see me coming. No thread is safe.
Reply #35 posted 11/07/08 9:16pm

Abdul

Anything about Motown, Berry Gordy and that era is a must see,read,listen etc..... There are so many stories to be told, pictures to see and music to hear it can never get old IMO. Thanks for the cool thread Timmy

URL: http://prince.org/msg/8/288101

Date printed: Sat 19th Apr 2014 3:05am PDT