Berry Gordy Donates $4 Million to Motown Museum Expansion Project

Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Berry Gordy speaks onstage during Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration at Microsoft Theater on Feb. 12, 2019 in Los Angeles. 

Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. is donating $4 million toward a project to expand a museum housed in the Detroit building where he built his music empire, officials announced Wednesday (Sept. 4).

Gordy’s gift, which coincides with the company’s 60th anniversary, is the largest individual donation to the project officially announced in 2016, the Motown Museum said. It has attracted contributions from individuals, philanthropies and automotive companies, including Gordy’s long-ago employer Ford Motor Co. Gordy, 89, has long said the auto industry served as the inspiration for what would become an assembly line of record-making.

“I’m excited about the future of Motown Museum and happy to support it,” Gordy said in a release about the 50,000 square-foot multi-media attraction. “Not only will the expanded museum entertain and tell the stories of talented and creative people who succeeded against all odds, but it will also inspire and create opportunity for people to explore their dreams the way I did mine. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of that.”

Gordy launched Motown in 1959 with an $800 loan from his family's Ber-Berry Co-op trust and moved the label to Los Angeles in 1972 before selling it in 1988. His late sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, founded the museum in the former “Hitsville U.S.A.” headquarters on West Grand Boulevard in 1985. When Edwards died in 2011, Gordy — who has previously donated properties, artifacts and money to the museum — credited her with turning “the so-called trash left behind... into a phenomenal world-class monument at the spot where Hitsville started.”

Museum expansion plans include interactive exhibits, a performance theater, recording studios, an expanded retail area and meeting spaces. Museum officials say they are not releasing fundraising totals. Berry has long said that the museum should be self-sustaining in order to guarantee its long-term health.

Robin Terry, Motown Museum CEO and Gordy’s grand-niece, said in the release that his donation “advances our vision of making the expanded museum a world class entertainment and educational destination that will ensure the inspiration of Motown lives on for generations to come.” Gordy's gift joins donations from Ford Motor Company and UAW-Ford, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, AARP, DTE Energy Foundation, Dr. William Pickard, The Elaine & Leo Stern Foundation, Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family FoundationLEAR Corporation, William Davidson Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation and many others.

“There would be no Motown legacy, Motown Sound or Motown Museum without Berry Gordy. He has given the world a soundtrack to live by; Detroit a legacy of pride; and our youth an example of entrepreneurial and creative excellence,” said Terry in a statement.

Motown’s roster of artists from the Detroit era included The Supremes, the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, the Four Tops and Temptations. No groundbreaking or construction date has been announced for the expansion.


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