For well over 50 years, Motown has been making its mark on the music industry. But it’s so much more than that. It helped spur on the civil rights movement with soulful music with upbeat tempos and catchy tunes. It’s inspired at least two hit Broadway shows with the Motown history and sound. With countless hits attached to the Motown brand, we can still hear the influences even in today’s popular music.
It all started when a worker on the Lincoln-Mercury line had an idea. Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, took inspiration from his assembly line job at the factory and applied it to his love of music.
“Every day I watched how a bare metal frame, rolling down the line, would come off the other end, a spanking brand new car. What a great idea! Maybe I could do the same thing with my music. Create a place where a kid off the street could walk in one door, an unknown, go through a process, and come out another door a star.”
~ Berry Gordy
Today, anyone can head down to 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit and tour “Hitsville, U.S.A.” and visit Studio A, where so many great artists like Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, the Supremes, The Jackson 5, and Stevie Wonder worked on making their music great. From 1959 to 1966, while still in the original building, Motown Records made over $20 million – impressive even by today’s standards. In 1968, Motown Records expanded when Berry Gordy purchased the Donovan Building and used it as Motown’s offices. Also in 1968, he purchased Golden World Records and created a Studio B for the label.
The Motown Museum website calls the music “Part storefront church gospel, part jazz joint on a Saturday night, part street corner symphony, the Motown Sound… [is] unlike anything listeners had ever heard, Motown songs married the saintly and the secular…”
The music is timeless. You can’t hear the baseline intro to “My Girl” and not immediately sing along, even though you don’t necessarily remember how you even learned the lyrics. Even with today’s music, we can still hear familiar beats and riffs that popular artists have sampled from many of Motown’s greatest hits.
You can vote for the Motown Museum in USA Today’s “10 Best Musical Attraction” poll by clicking here.
Quotes and other information pulled from the Motown Museum website.