In 1960, Berry Gordy would find one of Detroit’s most iconic and important music foundations: Motown Records. Motown, taking name after Detroit’s reputation as a motor or automobile centered city, would characterize the city for more than half a century later.
The label’s sound was different than others before; it had a pop sound, but was smooth and signed R&B and soul artists such as Marvin Gaye. The sound the Gordy created was one that was said to bring together both black and white interests.
However, Motown Records was nowhere near perfect or resolving to black and white tensions. It had many problems, including Gordy’s relationship with Diana Ross of The Supremes, a group he had signed. Furthermore, Berry’s relationship with other artists was very rocky. He was known for giving little to no publishing rights to his artists, would fraudulently sell first quality records as cut-outs to prevent his artists from receiving royalties, treating his artists like children. Marvin Gaye even got into a physical fight with Gordy over his pay. Lastly, Gordy’s management was poor. When he left the Detroit branch to live and operate in LA, he put Ewart Abner in charge, an African-American male with militant black views. This polarized whites and blacks within the company, and many even called Abner a racist against whites.
Below are some songs by Motown’s most famous, signed artists, ranging from the Jackson 5 to The Supremes to Smokey Robinson: