chapter 7 - Chapter 7 The 1960s(Part III Motown In 1959...

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Chapter 7: The 1960s (Part III) Motown In 1959, with $800 borrowed from his family Berry Gordy (1929-) started what would in the 1960s become the largest African American-owned business in the United States. On the front door of an eight-room house in Detroit Gordy hung a sign that read “Hitsville, U.S.A.,” and proceeded to create Motown Records; the name was a contraction of “Motor Town,” which was a nickname for Detroit, Michigan. Over the next decade an incredible number of hit records would come out of Motown and its sister labels Tamla, Gordy, and Soul. The long list of artists that came up on these labels during the 1960s includes the Supremes, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes, Mary Wells, the Four Tops, and the Jackson Five. Gordy started his career as a songwriter , co-writing several hits that were recorded by r&b singer Jackie Wilson in the late 1950s. Recognizing the abundant talent available in Detroit’s African- American community, he envisioned a company that would cultivate and groom young black performers. To this end Motown was created as an organization that included songwriting, production, marketing, and through an ancillary company, management. Among the most famous songwriting teams that worked at Motown were Holland-Dozier-Holland, Whitfield and Strong, and Ashford and Simpson. In addition to writing and recording his own hits, Smokey Robinson also wrote songs that were recorded by other Motown artists. Instead of marketing records solely to a black audience, Gordy aimed at the commercial mainstream and sought to bring pop music created and performed by black artists to a wide demographic market. In particular, Gordy wanted to crossover and sell to a white, middle-class audience. Motown proclaimed itself to be “the sound of young America,” therefore the only real division was along the line of age. From the beginning Gordy ruled his organization with an iron hand; not only was he involved in the recording and production aspects of the business, but he also dictated how his performers dressed and conducted themselves both onstage and off. In the case of the Supremes, Gordy didn’t even allow the girls in the group to date. His legendary passion for control caused some complaints, but as may be seen by the long-term careers and success of many of his recording artists, his methods undeniably bore fruit. Vocal harmonies, rock-solid grooves, and orchestration featuring elaborate horn and string arrangements were characteristic of the Motown sound . The end product was pop-oriented; the rougher edges that were present in other r&b recordings were smoothed over. At the core of the Motown sound was a rhythm section comprised of James Jamerson on bass , Benny Benjamin on drums, Earl Van Dyke on keyboards, and Robert White on guitar. Collectively known as the Funk Brothers , they provided the bedrock upon which the hits were built. Jamerson in particular was
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