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Episode 76 of 90

Boomer Music Experience .. The founder of Motown -Berry Gordy

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Norfolk DNA
Duration: 36:04
in this episode, Randy and I chat about the founder of Motown... Mr Berry Gordy and his impact of the world of Rock and Roll!
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in this episode, Randy and I chat about the founder of Motown... Mr Berry Gordy and his impact of the world of Rock and Roll!
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be certainly the true consummate professional in the american. As an american record executive, but he wasn't only a record executive, he was also a record producer, songwriter, film producer and television producer. When we thank barry Gordy Dave and I'm sure our audience will agree with us. He is best known as the founder of Motown Records. And that Motown sound that he created was definitely, you know, through the late 60s and 70s was at the top of the church, was it not absolutely the Motown sound, a totally kind of recapitulation of spiritual, R and B and rock and roll all combined into one tidy package and was was one of his first uh talents that he found her work with with Smoky, wasn't he Smokey Robinson. Right on. Yes, as a songwriter, Davey, you composed or co composed a number of hits as we, as we know. Um, just to give you a few ideas, Jackie Wilson is Lonely, teardrops, great song, Their shop around by the miracles. Do you love Me The Contours? Good song there? Speaking of Jackie Robinson, Dave, I just want to share with the audience Any of the 50s, 60s dances that I've ever done. I can guarantee you, Jackie Robinson set from 1963, baby workout dance far loaded all the time. Really, baby work out great song and it's a mover to its mover and a shaker on the dance floor. There was, and he started out was the rumor is that he started with basically Loan money like $800 from his family or something. Is that true? That's absolutely correct. Absolutely correct. Date. Um, and his family gave him the 800 bucks and thank the Good Lord that got him started. Now, as you mentioned earlier as a record producer, he launched the miracles. He also signed acts like the Supremes and when I say the Supremes, it was, that's when the Supremes. It was early Supremes. Later down the road it became Diana Ross and the Supremes. But originally The Supremes and in addition to that too, of course, as we know, Marvin Gaye, the temptations, four tops, Gladys Knight and the pips and Stevie Wonder. Um but in addition, Dave I think our audience needs to know aside from signing these wonderful, talented acts, he was also known for very carefully controlling the public image and that goes very specifically as far as dress manners and choreography of his acts. Yeah, very important. Yeah. I read once that he called it quality control and he was really wanted to make sure that it crossed over his the Motown sound crossed over to the all folks of each. Absolutely, yeah. It's amazing. Um I need you to confirm or deny something. Was he a boxer? I read that somewhere a long time ago. Yes. In fact, that just kind of blew me away when I was reading that. They've he his greatest interest was in boxing. So He dropped out of high school in the 11th grade to become a professional boxer. And he did that in hopes he had one goal in mind to become rich quickly. There you go, believable, But you're absolutely right. He did box professionally until 1950 and of course, he was drafted at that time by the United States Army for service in the korean war. But it's interesting dave um, we need to know during the korean war. Um, He was assigned to the 58th field artillery Unit, but he later became a chaplain's assistant, driving a jeep and playing the organ at religious services on the front. Oh, I didn't know that. How good is that? Here we see. Okay. Maybe from boxing now we have a, we have quite a nice interest in music justified. And one of the other things when you, when you think about what you said is his goal is to make money, but he was a driven person. Was he not? He's sorry. He still is to this day, but I mean he very driven to get things accomplished. Was he not absolutely dave right on right on the money? And that's just, that's just kind of his personality and his makeup. So talk a bit more like Hitsville Usa is often running and like you said, he has the Supremes. What did it just, that sounded, it just blow up. Did it? You, you were in that area, you lived through that area. Was it all new? Was it sounded great? What, what was, what was the vibe on that? Oh, um, Motown sound? Uh couldn't be it, It was like a tidal wave of new music never heard before and everyone took to it. Um Well most of the people took to it. Um, he had a huge following Motown um, also to Barry Gordy, he was no dummy. His tour in the career war was completed in April of 1953. Then he went back to school and he got his general education development, which would be high school equivalency degree. Well in today's Modern world, in our educational system, that would mean he graduated from Grade 12 with on Earth. So he again, like we said, he's driven, he goes back and accomplishes that he's, and he's building this, starting to build this record company with the likes like the set of Smokey Robinson. Um, and then comes this, you know, they have, but they have a few few hits I've read and then they miracles hit was shop around and it goes number one. That must have been, that must have been crazy for me. Oh it was it was a true blessing because of all of his hard work. And of course, as you mentioned earlier, He had borrowed $800 from his family to create an R. & B. Record company. Now originally Kourtney wanted to name the new label, Canny Records, of course, After the song to me by Debbie Reynolds from 1964, However, that name was taken, so what he did, it chose the name, Camera Records and I still have David My 45 record collection. Just the Tamela label to IA Records. And of course, as we both know later on down the road, Tamela Motown was incorporated and I think that was 1959 or 1960. But Tamela Records, if you have any 45 with Tamra Records, the label only, hang on to them. They're worth money, Wow, I didn't know that. Thanks for that piece of advice. When I'm looking through my albums in my 45, I'll definitely take a look at that. Yeah. What do you think? You know, we're talking a little bit about his drive and all that. What was his feel for music? Does that sound his idea? Like how did that, do you know how that sound came about the Motown sound? The horns are like, we've talked about the different genres that sort of combined, but it just seemed to it worked for everything. It seemed like there for a while, didn't it? Oh, absolutely. And Gordy's get for identifying and bringing together this musical talent called the Motown sound. It was under careful management and once again the artists public image, very important. But Motown initially was a major national and then international success. And of course, as we all know, there are so many artists, you can go right on down the line again. I'll reiterate a few of these. The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the temptations, Jimmy Ruffin. What became of the brokenhearted good song There? The contours. Do you love me from 1963? Yes, for tops Gladys Knight and the pips. The commodore, No, not Lionel Richie and the Commodores. That was later on originally the commodore. The Dell vets Martha and the Vandellas. He raped good song there. And of course, Devi Wonder and the Jackson five, I'm Just going to say that the Jackson five and they kind of took it by storm T. J. Absolutely. You had all that talent up with all those artists And you've got $1 million billion dollar sound right there and they were one of the other neat things and I'm not sure the year on this and you might have it somewhere in your little things was the Supremes were the first R. And B. Act to play new york's Coco coco cabana. Sorry, Copacabana and that just opened the door for other accent. You think of the first that this Motown accomplished and sort of setting that new standard for music all over north America, all over the world and it's pretty prevalent that this man had a dream and he was following. Oh absolutely, It's just totally baffling. But here again we have to go back to a barry Gordy's work ethic. He was a good businessman, his work out there, plus he chose his artist, he chose the singers. He had an uncanny knack of knowing, hey, well, uh, this girl here, mary Wells, I like what I like what she's doing. Yeah, we'll sign her up to Motown. Yeah, Okay, Robinson and americans. You beat me to the punch, great group. You get them up the temptations, my girl, right? Who doesn't know that song, right? Exactly. They all were just in that persona that you could relate to as far as the sound of the music. And you knew the minute on the radio and a Motown song came on, you could feel it, right. And that was the other part that I was appreciated about the music. It had that feel to it. You could just grab onto and it was just for everyone. Right? Oh, absolutely. And I did check the date on the incorporation Dave of Tamerlan and Motown labels. The Motown Record Corporation was incorporated on April 14, 1960 and of course 1960 that same month, Gordy had signed an unknown fair mary Wells, of course, great big hit career in 1964. My guy who became the fledging labels second star along of course with Smokey Robinson, the Miracles and some other and the marvel, it's please Mr postman. So here's an unknown singer, mary Wells, good voice, lots of hits, Gordy sense that find her right away. He didn't even know her. It seems like um, they always started at his groups, you know what I mean? Like the temptations, like we talked about the Commodores and then somebody stepped up the Supremes, diana ross. Uh it sort of takes that next step to superstardom, right? And I think that kind of was, I don't want to say that was a bit of his downfall, but obviously with him and dangerous, there was a lot of emotions connected both physically and mentally. They were both, they were partners in more than one scenario. But do you think he just was maybe a bit overboard with Diana Ross or was that all deserving? Oh, that's a good question dance. Um because she was, she became like, well before with that mary wells as well, that's a great example, but she became Motown, did she not there for a bit, definitely. I definitely agree with that. And of course Diana ross great voice and she, she was really the pivotal giant of the Supremes. If I may say that, I totally understand that and that kind of led him into film, didn't it? Yes, the in fact it was a very successful film too. It was a film on, it was on Billie Holiday in, Lady sings the blues, starring Diana Ross. And of course Billie Holiday singing the original version of Lady sings the blues, uncanny. When you hear Diana Ross sang at you close your eyes. You think it's Billie Holiday singing a song, that's how good it was and that's how good it was for diner off was. I think she was she up for an Oscar for that? Uh Actually she was nominated for an Academy Award along with Richard Prayer and Billy Dee Williams. Yeah. Oh, but yeah, Unbelievable. And then soon after that was produced, he directed Mahogany, which of course also starred Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams. That was in 1985. Since 75 or 85. Other was 75. I have to check that. Um 075. Yeah, that's correct, yeah. And it was 85. He produced the last dragon film. That's right. But 1975, Mahogany. Yeah, Yeah. You gotta wonder he broke down the barriers, did he not in music? He was another one of those, one of those pioneers that created a sound. And it's fitting that it came out of Detroit because he himself was a bit of an auto worker. So it's it was kind of that workman like atmosphere I think at at Motown because they were creating these hits and the sound was there but it was almost like an assembly line, was it not? That's right. Dave, Very true, Very true. And although um old town, it continued to produce major hits. Now we're talking like through the 70s and the 80's by artists including well the Jacksons rick James, the Commodores, Lionel, Richie Alone now. And of course the long term signings of Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, the record company was at that time no longer the major force that had been Gordon, sold his interest in Motown records to America, which is a huge giant in records EMC two records in boston ventures on june 28 1988. For $61 million. I kid you not. So yeah, From starting out like you said with just that, getting that grade 12 education, he used all his resources and obviously his drive created what we now have is known as the legacy of Motown right on. And he later sold most of his interest in job at publishing where she was the author creator, President Ceo. You name it. He told that to me publishing of course me that's known worldwide again for their records and publishing. Gordie wrote Dave 240 of the approximate 15,000 songs and Motown's job at music catalog. However, however, the true test of the labels worth would come a few years later when polygram records And Polygram Records, they're huge. They paid over $330 million dollars for the Motown catalog and get this Diana ross was given shares in the version of the label. Oh, I didn't know that, wow. So she made some big bucks on that polygram. Over 330 million for the Motown catalog, wow. Unbelievable. And And you know what I read that his estimated worth was around 400 million Barry Gordy's. That's that's incredible. From where the starts were in Detroit and what he was able to accomplish in his life. Uh, for yourself. What what give me a couple of the, uh, your recorded with your DJ business? What some of the bigger hits that are requested that are Motown classics? Oh, The Games. Well, of course, we just mentioned that mary Wells, my guy, I'm doing the 50 60 stances. That's a good one. Uh, Jackie Wilson earlier, baby work out. Unbelievable. That's that's a must. Uh the contours. Do you love me? The four tops? Uh Bernadette Standing in the Shadows of Love Good one. Can't Help Myself. Um it's the same old song, Beat me to the punch. Just these are shop around the miracles. These are songs that are automatic dance fillers. And did they meet that requirement that you told me about? Is that what does it? Yes, absolutely. Maybe explain that to our listeners. It's kind of, as I mentioned, Dave, it's a solid beat. It's a good dance speed, but it's a accumulation of the kind of spiritual religious borders, R and B borders, rock and roll, and it's all of those elements and genres of music that have become known as the Motown sound. But again, let's thank barry Gordon? He's the mastermind behind all of it. Not only the record label but the mo talent artists. He was years ahead of his time. And when you, anytime you bring in the horns like they did on a number of the songs, it just adds to the flavor. And you and I are big guys like that, we enjoy that type of, that type of sound and I do think that contributed a lot to the Motown sound. It just added to the flavor. And especially when you got somebody like Smokey Robinson and a saxophone in the background, it just, it fulfills that sound requirement, doesn't it? Makes it all how? It certainly does. You know, it has a has a third dimension to the actual song of each in any given song from my accountant. You can uh do you think the horns that were Motown? I mean horns had always been going but do you think that altered the way of thinking for bands down the road? Like Chicago? I mean Chicago was starting out then too but they became so prominent and that's you know for some reason I was just so and then they weren't associated with Motown but you know that sound always gets me too. Absolutely corrective. That was the beginnings and the development of the horn section for many good good bands down the road. Um I'd like to justify could review some of the awards that barry Gordy in accolades he's received down through the years. Um He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. He was inducted into the Junior Cadet Junior Achievement U. S. Business Hall of Fame in 1998. And of course the michigan rock and roll legends of fame in 2000 and nine. Now when Gordy received the Songwriters Hall of Fame's Pioneer Award on june 13th 2013 just seven years ago he was the first living individual to receive the honor. And in 2016 4 short years ago Gordy received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama for helping to create a trailblazing new sound in american music. Now as a record producer, songwriter he helped build Motown, launching the musical careers of countless legendary artists and his unique sound health shape our nation's story quote unquote. Now Barry Gordy and Barry Gordy Square I should say in Los Angeles California was designated by the city council at the intersection of Sunset boulevard which I've been to the corner of Sunset boulevard and Argyle Street, downtown Los Angeles and that's where the office of Motown was located when they moved to Los Angeles from Detroit. Yeah, the accomplishments say just they just keep piling up for him even even in his, in his later years in life, which is great to see that the respect that people have for the work that he's done. That's right. Absolutely. Just a few statements to about the motel and hardest to day that I'm sure our listeners Well enjoy following the funeral of Marvin Gaye. On April 5, 1984, Gordy declared gay the greatest of his time and he stated the singer had no musical equals comparing his talents of course to those Billie holiday. Now On March 20, when Gordy was in the holiday was in Hollywood and I should say to pay tribute to his first group and first million selling act the miracles he remembers receiving a star on the Hollywood walk of fame and speaking in tribute to the group, Gordy said without the miracles Motown would not be the most talented is today. What a statement. And full marks for the miracles. Yeah, Everybody starts somewhere, don't they? Yep. Absolute. And also at the age of 79, Gordy spoke at the Memorial Service for Michael Jackson in Los Angeles. This was on July 7, 2009. Here's an interesting quip. He suggested that the King of Pop was perhaps not the best description for Jackson in light of all of his achievements. Instead, he referred him to Michael Jackson has the greatest entertainer that ever lived, wow, that's big accolades for sure. It's an amazing career. Like when you, when you mentioned to me we were gonna we wanted, you would like to do a show on barry Gordy and then you start doing the research and you find out a little bit more about the man, it's an incredible career that he's had and thanks for bringing that up. Anything else you want to add to this barry guy? Are you sorry? Um actually to another interesting note that I never knew, I really want to share this with our audience. Dave Barry Gordy own the Cold Palace Castle. Now he raced this horse under the nomme de course, at the stables, of course is the stables there in California. So paulus Castle, He raised her in the 1994 Oceanside Steaks and the Malibu Stakes. He finished eighth in those races. So from there, well, of course, from there we go to the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Dallas. And there he raised this horse And she finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby, then he went and raised her in the Preakness Stakes. She finished ninth. And of course, as we all know, the Triple Crown is the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes doesn't say he raised during the Belmont, but hey, to finish eighth in the Kentucky Derby, that is phenomenal, didn't know he had uh a knowledge and an interest in a passion for horses also. How could that? Well? And it shows that he, yeah, obviously in his life, he had a very, very variety of interest that took him to many places in many different adventures over here. Did he? Did he not? Absolutely, very, very true and Motown. The musical, Gordy was developing a broadway hit about Motown and the show is said to be an account of events of the 19 sixties, how the shapes creation of the Motown label. Gordy hoped that the musical would improve the reputation of Motown records and also, most important, they to clear up any misconceptions regarding the labels demise. So Motown the musical, it began previews at the lunch Fontaine theater on March the 11th 2013 and it had regular performances right up until april 14th. The musical itself closed in 2015. So now Let's bring in the UK, the UK version of Motown Miskell. It opened in the West End in January of 2016 and Barry Gordy went to opening night. That was just four years ago. So Motown is very much alive today in 2020. Yeah, Motown is never going to go away. It's the music, you know, music is universal. It just continues to grow and find a new audience and I don't think Motown's any different. I don't think Barry Gloria has to worry about that. That's that's that. Music has been, its legacy, foundation is done. It's still growing in different forms. For sure. I'm sure it probably helped start other forms of music, be it wrap or whatever, but it probably had a solid influence on many of those other artists that Our up and coming and now in the 2020 20. Right. Absolutely. Dave, yep. Right. On the mark. All right, well, that's uh it's been great doing this. Barry Gordy is just one of those characters that you and I needed to sit down and discuss and I'm glad we had the opportunity to do it. You know, I think when we talk about these icons, it's important for people to understand the music and what they created and how that affects us today. Yeah. All right. A lot of things about barry Gordy a I never knew I mean either. So that's why we have these conversations on the boomer music experience uh, just to educate people and let them know what we're learning about music because it's kind of our fun time to do the
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