Motown Influence

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What began at a house in Detroit exploded into an influential force in music and American society. This brief profile explores Motown's development, the guiding force of its founder, the musicians and artists, their top hits, the "sound" of their music and their close family relationships. Motown Company Development and the Influence of Berry Gordy On January 12, 1959, a young African-American songwriter, Berry Gordy, Jr., borrowed $800 from his family and founded a new record company. At that time America's music business was racially segregated. Major record companies released R&B music on special independent labels. However, Gordy recognized that the popularity of this type of music was increasing. He entered the field at an opportune…show more content…
1 Hits"). Motown had 180 number one hits worldwide in 50 years ("Motown"). Gordy sometimes created new labels so his artists could have distinctive identities for publicity purposes (Dahl 21). The Distinctive Motown Sound After a few top hits, Gordy established a formula for Motown music: an easy-to-remember melody, lyrics written in the present tense and lead singers working against background singers rather than as an ensemble (Posner 52). Motown artists embraced and enhanced a distinctive music style -- upbeat, positive music combining pop, soul, blues and gospel with catchy lyrics to create a new sophisticated dimension and intensity for pop music. Phil Spector, a Motown music producer, is credited with using reverb and instrument overdubbing to create Motown's distinctive "wall of sound" (Quizlet). The Motown Family Several Motown recording artists and other employees remembered good times at Motown. The Temptations' Otis Williams (qtd. in Posner 12) said when Motown started Detroit was an active music city, with music heard in and out of clubs, on radio, on records and from on street singing groups. Williams (qtd. in Early 29) said he felt he had been adopted by a large loving family rather than hired as an employee. Session pianist Earl Van Dyke liked the informal atmosphere at Motown. Most were poor and often homeless in the early years (Dahl
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