Motown: The music that changed America

Motown: The music that changed America

Sixty years ago, Berry Gordy set up the hit factory of Motown. Arwa Haider looks at how an independent record label created one of the most influential sounds of the 20th Century.

On 12 January 1959, the music sensation that changed America – and the world beyond it – was set in motion. Detroit-born 29-year-old Berry Gordy founded Tamla Records with an $800 loan from his family’s collective savings. By the following year, he’d merge this into the Motown Record Corporation: an independent empire that would seal its genuinely iconic status, introducing legends including The Jackson 5; Diana Ross and The Supremes; Stevie Wonder; Smokey Robinson; Marvin Gaye; Martha and The Vandellas; The Commodores and many others among its hundreds of signings.

Sixty years on, Motown’s classic catalogue remains ubiquitous and influential: forming a blueprint for modern soul and pop successes, from girl groups to hit singer-songwriters; sampled on countless hip hop and dance anthems and covered by acts of every genre. On its anniversary, the music is celebrated in the book Motown: The Sound of Young America by Adam White with Barney Ales (Thames & Hudson) – filled with rarely seen and previously unpublished photos.

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