The story of Motown

Jun 19, 2023By Neil Greaves
Neil Greaves

Motown is one of the most iconic record labels in the history of music. Founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1959, Motown was responsible for producing some of the most memorable and influential songs of the 20th century.

The Early Years

Motown was founded by Berry Gordy Jr., a songwriter and businessman who had a vision of creating a record label that would appeal to both black and white audiences. Gordy started the label with an $800 loan from his family, and he quickly began signing talented artists and songwriters to the label.

One of the first artists signed to Motown was Smokey Robinson, who would go on to become one of the label's most successful artists and songwriters. Other early Motown artists included The Miracles, The Supremes, and Martha and the Vandellas.

motown early years

The Motown Sound

One of the things that set Motown apart from other record labels was its distinctive sound. Motown songs were known for their catchy melodies, upbeat rhythms, and tight harmonies. This sound was created by a group of talented musicians known as the Funk Brothers, who played on many of the label's recordings.

The Motown sound was also characterized by the use of a number of studio techniques, such as the "Wall of Sound" and the "Motown drum sound." These techniques helped to create a sound that was both distinctive and instantly recognizable.

motown sound

The Motown Family

One of the things that made Motown so successful was the sense of family that existed within the label. Berry Gordy Jr. was known for his hands-on approach to running the label, and he worked closely with many of the artists and songwriters.

The Motown family also included a number of behind-the-scenes players, such as Maxine Powell, who ran the label's finishing school and helped to groom many of the artists for success.

motown family

Motown Goes Global

In the 1960s, Motown became a global phenomenon, with hits like "My Girl," "Dancing in the Street," and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" topping charts around the world. The label also became known for its groundbreaking social commentary, with songs like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" addressing issues like poverty, war, and civil rights.

Motown also played an important role in breaking down racial barriers in the music industry. Many of the label's artists, such as The Supremes and The Temptations, became household names and helped to pave the way for future generations of black musicians.

motown global

The Legacy of Motown

Today, Motown remains an important part of music history. The label's songs continue to be played on radio stations around the world, and its artists continue to be celebrated for their contributions to music.

The legacy of Motown can be seen in the music of many contemporary artists, who have been influenced by the label's distinctive sound and style.

motown legacy

Conclusion

The story of Motown is a testament to the power of music to bring people together and to inspire change. Through its distinctive sound, its commitment to social commentary, and its sense of family, Motown created a legacy that continues to resonate with music lovers around the world.