Driving into work today, I was listening to Motown. Once I finally stopped singing “Dancing Machine” by The Jackson Five (which drew some stares from the other drivers), I got to thinking maybe other people are as curious about the history of Motown as I am. And since there is no place better to dig up information than our Reference databases, that’s where I started.
In 1959, songwriter Barry Gordy, Jr. started the Tamla label using an $800 loan from his family. In 1960 Tamla became incorporated as Motown Records, which is a blending of “motor town,” a nickname for Detroit, where it all started. Gordy’s plan for his label was to bring African American music to the mainstream and make it popular for both black and white audiences. He had a policy of using the same teams of songwriters and producers, the same musicians and the same studio for virtually every recording, which resulted in the distinctive sound that has made Motown so recognizable throughout the years. Some of the more well-known Motown artists were:
- The Four Tops
- Martha and the Vandellas
- Diana Ross and The Supremes (shown above)
- The Temptations
- Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
- Stevie Wonder
- The Jackson Five
- Gladys Knight and the Pips
- Marvin Gaye
Motown was extremely successful and lasted just over a decade until it moved from Detroit to Los Angeles and gradually lost many of its artists to more popular music, and therefore lost its distinctive sound. Be sure to check our Media department for recordings of this great music, and if you have any further questions on Motown (or anything else!) be sure to stop by our Reference Department today and if you could get here in the next ten minutes, you may just catch me singing “Standing in the Shadows of Love” by the Four Tops!