News of Esther Gordy Edwards' death on Wednesday night quickly spread throughout the Motown family. Several of the label's artists and others associated with the company's famed history shared their memories and thoughts about "The Mother of Motown" passing:
Duke Fakir, Four Tops
Esther Gordy, man, she was just as important as Berry (Gordy, Jr.) for the guidance and how she protected her artists. She was like everybody's mother and we were like her little puppies. She would direct us and counsel us and fight for us and protect us, and she was the hardest and best businesswoman you'd ever meet -- and sweet as pie on top of it. She negotiated every deal for her artists, made sure we got proper treatment and were shown in the right way. Everything she did with a purpose, and she made sure everything you did had a purpose. She made the best deals financially, the best deals for your visibility. She was probably one of the best managers other than (the Beatles') Brian Epstein out there. She helped develop all those artists through her direction and loving care. And she saved everything and documented everything. She was Ms. Hitsville museum.
Otis Williams, The Temptations
I am extremely saddened to hear that she has passed. She was one of our first managers before Shelly Berger. Such a wonderful woman. She was very influential in the embryonic stages of the Temptations. She will always be in my heart.
She was very near and dear to my heart, a wonderful person in my personal life. I loved her very much. She was one of our top executives, a very important person in Motown. She was the head of our management department, did a lot of overseas transactions and stuff like that with Berry. She was tough, she was firm and she was very thorough. She was a chaperone...looking out for the girls, keeping the guys away from the girls. No hanky-panky around her, absolutely. And it's because of her that we have the Motown museum. We have all the paraphernalia and the pictorial history. She was taking pictures from the time we started; every step we took as artists, she would take a picture. We used to think it was humorous -- "She's taking another picture!" -- but thank God for her.
Norma Barbee Sairhurst, The Velvelettes
She was a great lady. I admired her a lot even when we made the first trip down (to Motown) in the 60s...mainly because of her dress and her personality. She was quite a lady, and it was obvious she was very smart. She was like a mother figure because, obviously, our mothers couldn't travel with us. My fondest memory with her was when she would take us shopping...to purchase uniforms to wear on stage. I remember how patient she was; to have the patience with these young teenagers to walk all over the darn store and see what we want to purchase to perform in, that takes a lot of patience.
Sylvester Potts, The Contours
Basically she was Berry's right-hand man. She handled a lot of the bookings that came through...and she went out on the show. She was like the chaperone for the girls, but she was nice. She had a way of making you understand that she's in charge. She kept it nice, and we tried to slip away from her, but we couldn't.
Frances Nero, Motown artist
She meant a lot to me. She was just nice to me and gave me a lot of advice that I've taken to heart and appreciated -- just about being a lady and what it meant to be with Motown, how people would be watching you and that the way you carried yourself was important, those types of things. She was kind of a stern lady, but she had to be with the business she was in. But there was a gentle side to her, too.
Billy J. Wilson, Motown Alumni Association President
Ms. Edwards was the Matriarch of Motown. She was the sold strength to back up her brother in a business she was skeptical of. Even through her skepticism she endured the ups and downs of Motown's rise to the top. She was my hero in that company.
I'm taken back by the loss of Esther Gordy Edwards. She meant so much to me as a human being -- she embodied the idea of never giving up. She was ever determined in everything she did, she was full of energy and her spirit will continue live on. She loved the idea of what we were creating in Motown. She believed in me -- when I was 14 years old and many other people didn't or could only see what they could at the time, she championed me being in Motown. I shared with her many of my songs first before anyone else. She was like another mother to me, she was an extension of that same kind of motherly love. I'm in Washington D.C. right now celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King and Esther, who was also a friend of Coretta Scott King, without question will be celebrated here this week and weekend, and her spirit will continue live on. When we lose someone, we often think "they don't make people like this anymore." It is my hope that younger generations and the world will know of her spirit and her pride in world culture.
Redfoo (aka Stefan Gordy), LMFAO
Some of my greatest childhood moments were spent with my Aunt Esther. Her honesty, humor and the ability to make people feel special have influenced me greatly. I will love you forever Aunt Esther.
Berry Gordy, Jr.
Today our family mourns the loss of our beloved Esther Gordy Edwards.
Esther Gordy Edwards was a top Motown executive, businesswoman, civil and political leader, who received numerous awards, commendations and accolades. She was the most educated in our family and was the go-to person for wisdom in business. Whatever she did, it was with the highest standards, professionalism and an attention to detail that was legendary. She always came out a hero. Esther wasn't concerned with being popular. She was dedicated to making us all better --the Gordy family and the Motown family. Esther turned the so-called trash left behind after I sold the company in 1988 into a phenomenal world-class monument where Hitsville started -- the Motown Museum. She preserved Motown memorabilia before it was memorabilia, collecting our history long before we knew we were making it. She nurtured and held it together through the years, protecting the Motown legacy for generations to come -- which is only one of the reasons people all over the world will remember and celebrate Esther Gordy Edwards. Despite my sorrow, I will proudly continue to honor and celebrate her. She will always be my big sister and she will forever live in my heart.
Audley Smith, Chief Operating Officer of the Motown Historical Museum
I've known Mrs. Edwards since I was an undergraduate at (Detroit's) Wayne State University...and she was involved with the Gordy scholarship and grant program. She took a liking to me and I to her, and just as they did with Motown artists she realized I could probably benefit from some of her experiences and she became my mentor. I had the same experience that Motown artists went through in terms of coming through that door fairly raw and going through that process of refinement. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Mrs. Edwards and cherish our time together. She was someone who genuinely took the time and interest in helping me become a better person in so many areas. Working (at the museum) has been labor of love because she was so important to me. She constantly encouraged us to always think about how much or in how many different ways we can improve what we do here. I think she would be very proud of where we are right now, and I think she would be extremely excited about our future plans for the museum and be satisfied that she left it in good hands.