Thursday, December 5, 2013

Motown Founder of Sound Often Imitated, Never Duplicated, Berry Gordy Turns 84

Motown Founder  of Sound Often Imitated, Never Duplicated, Berry Gordy Turns 84

Berry  Gordy, Jr.  was a visionary who  took  the new 'white' rock and roll and made it more appealing to the inner city kids with choreography and a certain identifiable, addictive sound they called 'Motown.'
It was characterized  by an infectious mix of piano, guitar drums with someitmes  a flute or piccolo, other times vibes thrown into the mix. The Funk Brothers laid down the instrumentation unlike any other 'sound.' Often imitated, never duplicated.

Much like building of cars in Detroit,Gordy called Motown's approach to music 'assembly line.'   Each artist or group would go through the different stages of production. First, it was the music, working with the songwriters and musicians and producer, then it was working with the choreographer and then it was off to a 'finishing school,'unheard of in music until Motown. Gordy looked for artists who would work well within what he called the 'family'of Motown. Great singers were turned away because they may have had attitude or didn't fit while less polished singers with drive and character might have been given the chance.
It all worked out ...from Gordy's pre-Motown days writing for Jackie Wilson to taking that talent to the next level of having his own record producing company. Gordy was a songwriter, producer, founder,  talent developer, visionary and finally chairman, which he is today, having given up the reigns of Motown in 1988 but overseeing it in an advisory role.

Too many artists to name who came through Motown, the biggest being the Supremes,Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson and the Jacksons but also very important but with perhaps shorter careers at Motown the Miracles, Mary Wells, Martha and Vandellas, Marvelettes, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips. Just to model the 'assembly line' approach after Detroit auto makers and call it 'Motown'was  visionary in itself.  Hard to think of another label that had as identifiable a sound as Motown, yet it wasn't all the same with each group having it's unique variation.




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