Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five would not have been the legendary institutions in the music industry as we know them today if not for one man – Berry Gordy, Jr.
Gordy was responsible for launching these musical artists, along with other ‘Motown’ singers under his record label, Motown Records.
Gordy discovered, produced and launched numerous talented African-American singers from the 1950s through the 1970s, revolutionizing jazz and R&B music into a whole new musical culture in itself.
Berry Gordy, Jr. – Cultivating the Talents of African-American Artists Berry Gordy, Jr. was born in a big, middle-class African-American family, to Berry Gordy, Sr. and Bertha Gordy.
He studied through 11th grade before pursuing his dream of becoming a professional boxer. Gordy’s stint as a boxer ended when he joined the army in 1950. Gordy shortly became fascinated with music after he returned from the war in Korea in 1953.
This interest led to the opening of Gordy’s own jazz music store, 3-D Record Mart, and his writing of some songs. Business did not go well at 3-D Record Mart, pushing Gordy to look for other means of income for him and his wife, Thelma Coleman.
Music had a way of finding Gordy though. Gordy eventually met Al Green, the owner of the Fame Show Bar talent club and singer Jackie Wilson. Gordy wrote and co-wrote songs for Wilson for two years, recording a few modest hits such as ‘Reet Petite’.
Gordy had then moved up from writing songs to producing artists like Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. He established Tamla, an R&D label in 1959 and proceeded with creating Motown Records in the same year.
He cultivated mainly African-American artists, making the revolution of ‘black music’ one of – if not his – most significant contributions in the industry. In time, Gordy was able to produce recording hits under Motown Records.
The label had grown to include solo artists and singing groups such as Mary Wells, The Supremes and Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Night and the Pips, The Commodores, The Velvelettes, The Marvelettes, Martha & the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five.
A true business leader, he had a clear vision of how the industry would move and so Gordy expanded Motown Records in 1973 to cross over other entertainment industries such as movie, TV and publishing, thereby creating Motown industries.
The Berry Gordy, Jr. Quick Bio
Full Name: Berry Gordy, Jr.
Birthdate: November 28, 1929
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan
Company: Motown Records Corporation
Key Success Traits: talented, has the eye for talent, persisting
Gordy was able to drive Motown Records’ earnings to reach $50 million at its peak in the 1970s, making the label the most successful African-American business during its time.