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berry gordy

Berry Gordy

b. Berry Gordy Jnr., 28th November 1929, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.

Berry Gordy Jnr was responsible for the formation of, arguably, the most influential Soul Music record label spanning the last 50years.

Motown Records were responsible for much of the musical tapestry which epitomised the sound of 1960's America.

Essentially formed as a label promoting the best of Black Music in the late Fifties, Berry Gordy reformatted the template embracing all races and colours and, in the process, creating some classic pieces of modern popular music.

Berry was the seventh of eight children.

Berry Gordy Snr and Bertha Gordy berry's parents

His parents were Berry Gordy II (a.k.a. Barry Gordy, Sr.) and Bertha Fuller Gordy, who had relocated to Detroit from Milledgeville, Georgia in 1922.

From s strict background Berry's father was the son of Berry Gordy I and a woman named Joann.

His grandfather was the son of James Thomas Gordy, a white farmer, his grandmother was a female slave working in Georgia.

His grandfather was also the great-grandfather of James Earl Carter, Jr., the 39th President of the United States, making Berry Gordy III and Jimmy Carter second half-cousins.

Berry's father relocated to Detroit hearing of the opportunities for Black workers at the Ford Motor Company in the city.

Berry Gordy berry at 9 years of age

Whilst Berry's siblings were respected members of the Black community in Detroit, Berry, however, dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade to become a professional boxer, a profession he pursued until 1950.

Boxing Program 1948 click on the image for a larger version

At one time Berry appeared on the same bill as Joe Louis in 1948.

At the start of the decade he was drafted by the United States Army for service in the Korean war.

Returned home from service in 1953, he married a woman called Thelma Coleman.

At this point he began composing music, writing songs and opening the 3-D Record Mart, a jazz music store.

He later left the store and began work at the Lincoln-Mercury plant.

He then met the owner of the Flame Show Bar talent club, where he met singer Jackie Wilson.

In 1957, Jackie recorded 'Reet Petite', a song Gordy had co-written with his sister Gwen and writer-producer Billy Davis.

Jackie Wilson followed the songs success recording four more songs co-written by Gordy over the next two years, including 'Lonely Teardrops'.

Through his songwriting connections in 1957, he discovered The Miracles (originally known as The Matadors) and began constructing a roster of potential recording artists.

In 1959, using an $800 loan from his family, Berry Gordy formed the first incarnation of his legendary label Tamla Records, which produced Marv Johnson's first hit, entitled 'Come To Me'.

United Artists Records ran with the song, and released the artist's follow-up records including 'You Got What It Takes, a song co-produced and co-written by Berry.

Berry Gordy berry and smokey

Smokey Robinson suggested to Berry that he should create Motown in December 1959.

Barrett Strong's 'Money (That's What I Want),' besides appearing on Tamla, charted on Berry's Anna label in February 1960.

The song is usually credited as Motown's first hit record.

The same year Smokey and the Miracles charted with 'Shop Around', which led to Motown's own label independency.

Hits began to follow at a rapid pace, with the Marvelettes 'Please Mr Postman' being an early example. Both the Barrett Strong tune and the Marvelettes songs were both featured as cover versions on the Beatles album 'With The Beatles'.

Gordys / Beatles berry's kids with the beatles

The Fab Four also included Smokey Robinson's own composition 'You Really Got A Hold On Me'.

Motortown Revue 1962 motortown revue 1962

Although predominantly a label for Black artists, Berry did recruit some White peformers to the label over the years as the labels mass appeal began to beome more relevant.

Hitsville 2009

Berry also employed several white workers and managers at the company's headquarters named Hitsville USA on Detroit's West Grand Boulevard.

Motown was, however, undeniably an African-American artist based label, with Berry carefully controlled their artists public image, dress, manners and choreography.

Maxine Powell

maxine powell

Maxine Powell was enlisted to encourage the artists with their dress appearance stating that her new recruits were her 'diamonds in the rough', thus requiring her personal grooming tutelage.

Berry Gordy was a hugely gifted businessman, shrewd, however he transformed Motown into a massive musical success.

As Motown's influence and reputation grew, Berry created the style that he dubbed 'The Sound of Young America'.

Hollands Dozier Supremes

holland brothers, lamont dozier and the supremes

Berry and Stevie

Throughout the Sixties, Berry signed many artists including Mary Wells, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and The Pips, The Commodores, The Velvelettes, Martha & the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson 5.

Berry Gordy relocated the Motown label from Hitsville in Detroit to Los Angeles, California during 1968, following riots at the time in the Motor City.

Berry Gordy and Diana Ross berry and diana ross

Berry did, around this time, have a five year relationship with the label singer, Diana Ross.

The pair had a daughter called Rhonda Ross Kendrick in 1971.

Their relationship was part of the company's backbone, and her eventual decision to leave Motown in the early 80's was read as an indicator of the label's declining fortunes.

Berry's son Kennedy Gordy is the son out of a relationship with Berry's ex-girlfriend Margaret Norton.

Kennedy is better known as the Motown musician Rockwell.

Berry Gordy

By 1972, Berry had relocated all departments of the label to Los Angeles, thus closing the Hitsville studios.

In 1973, he divided the company into subsidiaries under the Motown Industries umbrella.

This enabled Berry to move Motown into other area's of the media.

During the Seventies, various movie vehicles came to the fore.

'Lady Sings The Blues' featured Diana Ross in the role of Billie Holliday.

'Mahogany', followed which also starred Diana Ross.

Berry re-signed Stevie Wonder for the label in 1976, releasing 'Songs In The Key Of Life', an album which launched the newly redesigned Motown label.

By 1985, Berry had produced the cult martial arts film 'The Last Dragon'.

Motown continued to produce major hits at Motown throughout the 70's and 80's, however, the label had lost it's early spark and Berry sold his interests in Motown Records to MCA and Boston Ventures in 1988 for $61 million.

He was later to sell most of his interests in the Jobete publishing concern to EMI Publishing.

In 1990 Berry Gordy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He then published an autobiography entitled, 'To Be Loved', in 1994.

Berry was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1998.

In 2001, Berry Gordy established a relief fund for former Motown Artists, Musicians & Writers who are down on their luck.

The Gwendolyn B. Gordy Fund assisted artists from the 60's and 70's with Gordy donating $750,000 in the name of his late sister.

He recently bought a retirement home in Palm Desert, California.

Berry GordyBerry Gordy

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