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The Motown Movement

The Motown Movement

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Published by kalasanty

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Published by: kalasanty on Dec 24, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Berry Gordy, Jr. formed the Motown record company in 1959. Pop radio swept the nation in the1950's and roots music black musicians struggled to keep their careers as whites profited fromtheir counterparts' efforts. From past experiences in the music business, Gordy had found that he was unable to profit off of his productions when working for white-owned record companies anddistributors. After discovering the young Smokey Robinson in 1957, he began to acquire localartists from Detroit in effort to create his own record label. Motown records quickly rose to asuccessful business. The company ran like a family enterprise; the songwriters, musicians, singersand producers all had close relationships with one another. No other record company could turnits humble, local origins into a mark of distinction and symbol of American culture like Motown.Otis Williams of the Temptations further expressed this emphasis of family by saying, "JoiningMotown was more like being adopted by a big loving family than being hired by a company." Theloyalty the Motown employees had to their goals and to each other was much stronger than would be found in a normal business. Gordy, of course, acted as the paternalistic figure in the company maintaining power over all others. Competition between artists and musicians was similar tosibling competition, and everyone made sacrifices for the label. With everyone's contributions tothe company, Motown Records ran like a well-oiled machine. Like the Detroit motor companies'production of cars , Motown cranked out number one hits in an assembly-line fashion.Perhaps the most important aspect of Motown is how it united a generation of Americans despitedifferences in race. The label's rejection of the division between "race records" and crossovermusic was made blatantly evident by the slogan adopted by the company,
The Sound of Young America.
Gordy's entire marketing strategy was based around the existence of one single,integrated youth market. Gordy realized that all teenagers, despite their race, worry about thesame things: unrequited love, sex, relationships etc. Due to this realization, Gordy was able to
market to youth united by generation rather than youth divided by race.
Motown practicedintegration in its employees and consumer market in effort to make actual integration a reality in America. In addition to Gordy's efforts of uniting Americans, he was also viewed locally somewhatas a hometown hero. He was employing Blacks in a time when their auto working jobs weremoving out of Detroit into the suburbs.For all of these reasons, it is evident that Motown holds a significant position in American culture.Each song found in this list of tracks contributes a small piece to Motown, thus contributing to America's national identity.
In 1959 Berry Gordy began to gather Detroit's best musicians from the thriving blues and jazzscene to cut songs for his new record company. This group became known as the Funk Brothers,and they are the heartbeat behind nearly every Motown song. By hiring a mixed race group,Motown once again displayed its attitude on the subject of integration. According to theirdocumentary, the Funk Brothers played on more #1 hits than the Beach Boys, Rolling Stones,Elvis and the Beatles combined. With this skill and talent of these musicians, Motown tracks wereproduced one after another. These musical geniuses made the Motown song. Almost anyonecould have sang a great hit on the tracks provided by this group. The Funk Brothers came from all
over the country bringing different musical influences with them. Many moved from Boston,Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Carolina in order to work in the car factories in Detroit. Gospelmusic and other regional music (Afro-cuban, Caribbean congo, Native American) greatly influenced this group. Several of the Brothers played in jazz clubs for additional money in theevenings. From their jam sessions in local night clubs, the Funk Brothers brought new texturesand sounds into the recording studio. The musicians in this group were so talented that oftentimes, Motown writers would come to them with general ideas for a song and the Brothers would begin to jam and would have a complete song within an hour. The band became so close to oneanother that they were all in sync. Although, often overlooked and unknown, the Funk Brothersintroduced America to the world of powerful, inspiring soul music.
Barrett Strong, from Mississippi, helped put Motown on the map in 1959 by producing their firsthit single, "Money". Among the first artists of Motown, Strong was greatly influence by gospelmusic. This track reached #2 on the U.S. R&B charts and #23 on the pop charts. This was Strong'sonly hit, he became a writer for the label, writing songs for Gladys Knight, Marvin Gaye, and TheTemptations among others. Several artists/bands including the Beatles have produced covers of this popular song. The 1978 movie,
 Animal House
, features Strong's song.

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