29 Black Music Milestones: Berry Gordy Starts Motown

In the late 1950s, rhythm and blues was still largely marginalized to tiny clubs in the inner cities of America. With his ear for talent and his vision for a powerhouse new label, Michigan-raised music mogul Berry Gordy would be a major force in changing all of that.

After proving his mettle as a songwriter, Gordy decided to found Motown Records in 1959, shortly after buying the Detroit house at 2648 West Grand Boulevard that would serve as Motown's headquarters and become known around the world as Hitsville U.S.A., It was a well deserved moniker: Gordy's golden ear would lead him to discover and sign music legends Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5 including little brother Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and countless others. The label would go on to earn dozens of top ten hits in the 60s alone.

But Gordy's skill as Motown's impresario and the dean of the classic R&B style that would become known as the "Motown Sound" also had a much larger effect. It was Motown music and artists that brought what had been known as "race records" into a truly modern style embraced by the masses, black and white, and made this timeless sound shaped by a visionary African-American label founder into music celebrated by every race around the world.

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