I continue to be thrilled by the fact that The Motown Sound is still popular! I smile every request I receive whether at a Wedding, Party or Trivia Hosting Event. Motown Music seems to transcend age, race, gender or class. This has always been one of my attractions to Motown Music, its diverse and far-reaching audiences. I created the DJ Motown Mix for those who want a pre-made mix of Classic Motown hits from Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Four Tops, Martha and The Vandellas, The Jackson 5, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Jackie Wilson, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
DJ Motown Mix
The Motown Story
With an $800 loan from his family, Berry Gordy Jr. established Motown Records in January 1959. Within a few years, this Detroit-based outfit was selling more singles and releasing more hits than any other record company.
Beyond the formidable music and sales figures, Motown itself became a cultural icon. As the most successful African-American owned and operated record company- and business-in the U.S., it symbolized a new day: its energetic product reflected the striving toward progress and optimism of a long-oppressed people and the nation as a whole. Just as Jackie Robinson’s integration of major league baseball had far wider implications, the embrace of Motown’s artists and recordings by the entire listening audience helped hurdle overt racial barriers that had plagued the country since its inception.
In its classic era, the seminal music scene of the 1960s, Motown’s artists were among the most popular, establishing a standard of excellence and sophistication that has never been surpassed. Calling itself “The Sound Of Young America,” the instantly recognizable and often-imitated Motown Sound blended distinctively passionate singers, the call and response vocal arrangements of the African-American church tradition, pop music sensibilities, jazz virtuosity and irresistible rhythms, overlaying them with timeless songwriting.
Prior to founding Motown, Gordy had attempted other professions, including boxer, record store owner and auto worker before finding success as a songwriter, particularly with the dynamic singer Jackie Wilson. A chance meeting in 1958 with an aspiring local singing group, the Miracles, led to his teaching songwriting to the quintet’s leader, William “Smokey” Robinson. Their partnership formed the basis of Motown-a name derived from a folksy version of Detroit’s nickname, “the Motor City”-with Robinson becoming a prolific and highly inventive composer for the Miracles and other acts Gordy brought into his orbit. Motown kicked off with the Tamla label, leasing Marv Johnson’s “Come To Me” to UA; Barrett Strong, who cut “Money (That’s What I Want),” had the company’s first national hit. The Official Website of Classic Motown
The Motown Sound
Motown specialized in a type of soul music it referred to with the trademark “The Motown Sound”. Crafted with an ear towards pop appeal, the Motown Sound typically used tambourines to accent the back beat, prominent and often melodic electric bass-guitar lines, distinctive melodic and chord structures, and a call-and-response singing style that originated in gospel music. Pop production techniques such as the use of orchestral string sections, charted horn sections, and carefully arranged background vocals were also used. Complex arrangements and elaborate, melismatic vocal riffs were avoided. Motown producers believed steadfastly in the “KISS principle” (keep it simple, stupid).
The Motown production process has been described as factory-like. The Hitsville studios remained open and active 22 hours a day, and artists would often go on tour for weeks, come back to Detroit to record as many songs as possible, and then promptly go on tour again. Berry Gordy held quality control meetings every Friday morning, and used veto power to ensure that only the very best material and performances would be released. The test was that every new release needed to fit into a sequence of the top five selling pop singles of the week. Several tracks that later became critical and commercial favorites were initially rejected by Gordy; the two most notable being the Marvin Gaye songs, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “What’s Going On“. In several cases, producers would re-work tracks in hopes of eventually getting them approved at a later Friday morning meeting, as producer Norman Whitfield did with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg“.
Many of Motown’s best-known songs, including all the early hits for The Supremes, were written by the songwriting trio of Holland–Dozier–Holland (Lamont Dozier and brothersBrian and Eddie Holland). Other important Motown producers and songwriters included Norman Whitfield, William “Mickey” Stevenson, Smokey Robinson, Barrett Strong, Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Frank Wilson, Pamela Sawyer & Gloria Jones, James Dean & William Weatherspoon, Johnny Bristol, Harvey Fuqua, Gil Askey, Stevie Wonderand Gordy himself.
The style created by the Motown musicians was a major influence on several non-Motown artists of the mid-1960s, such as Dusty Springfield and The Foundations. In the United Kingdom, the Motown Sound became the basis of the northern soul movement. Smokey Robinson said the Motown Sound had little to do with Detroit:
“People would listen to it, and they’d say, ‘Aha, they use more bass. Or they use more drums.’ Bullshit. When we were first successful with it, people were coming from Germany, France, Italy, Mobile, Alabama. From New York, Chicago, California. From everywhere. Just to record in Detroit. They figured it was in the air, that if they came to Detroit and recorded on the freeway, they’d get the Motown sound. Listen, the Motown sound to me is not an audible sound. It’s spiritual, and it comes from the people that make it happen. What other people didn’t realize is that we just had one studio there, but we recorded in Chicago, Nashville, New York, L.A.—almost every big city. And we still got the sound.”
The Motown Museum
“Despite the passage of time since Motown Records’ establishment in 1959 by Berry Gordy, tens of thousands of visitors pass through Hitsville U.S.A., home to the Motown Museum, each year. Their presence is a testimony to Motown’s legacy and to the charisma, talent and staying power of the music and those who made it.
The Motown Museum, which was founded by Esther Gordy Edwards in 1985, is one of Southeast Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations. Visitors come from across America and throughout the world to stand in Studio A, where their favorite artists and groups recorded much-loved music, and to view the restored upper flat where Berry Gordy lived with his young family during the company’s earliest days.” The Motown Museum
Motown: The Musical
MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL is the real story of the one-of-a-kind sound that hit the airwaves in 1959 and changed our culture forever. This exhilarating show charts Motown founder Berry Gordy’s incredible journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and so many more.
Featuring all the classics you love, MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL tells the story behind the hits as Diana, Smokey, Berry and the whole Motown family fight against the odds to create the soundtrack that changed America. Motown shattered barriers, shaped our lives and made us all move to the same beat. Now, it finally comes to the Broadway stage in the world premiere of MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL.
Motown Celebrating 50 Years!
If you would like a copy of the DJ Motown Mix, I invite you to write me and I will send you a copy free!