Berry Gordy was an American record producer and songwriter. His claim to fame was the establishment of the renowned Motown record label and its affiliates. Motown became one of the most eminent music companies in the history of the U.S.
Berry Gordy was born on 28th November 1929 in Detroit, Michigan and was the seventh child in a middle class family of Berry Gordy Sr. Berry’s siblings were all educated citizens however Berry wanted to become very rich very quickly so decided to drop out of school and become a professional boxer. He remained in this career till 1950 after which he was called by the U.S army to leave for the Korean War. Upon his return in 1953 he got married to Thelma Coleman. He got interested in music by writing songs and soon opened the 3D Record Mart which was a store that featured jazz music. Unfortunately this venture was not successful. Berry then got a job at Lincoln-Mercury plant.
His love and passion for music had not ended and somehow through family connections, he got to know Al Green who was the owner of the Flame Show Bar talent club. There he met the singer Jackie Wilson who recorded Berry’s song ‘Reet Petite’ in 1957. It became a modest hit in the U.S however topped the music charts in the U.K. More songs followed which included ‘Lonely Teardrops’ that also topped the charts and ‘All I Could Do Was Cry’. Berry decided to use all his profits from his the success of his songs into producing. He found out about ‘The Miracles’ in 1957 and after that he started making a portfolio of popular artists. He borrowed a loan from his family and founded R&B label Tamla Records. Soon Motown became a successful independent company that recorded some of the most successful groups and songs such as ‘The Supremes’, ‘Stevie Wonder’, ‘Four Tops’, ‘Martha and Vandellas’, ‘Marvin Gaye’, Jr. Walker & the All-Stars’, ‘Michael Jackson’ and ‘Smokey Robinson’. The first hit song produced by Motown was ‘Way Over There’ by Smokey Robinson released in 1960.
Berry co-wrote 240 songs for Motown’s Jobete music catalogue which was sold for $330 million some years later. Berry was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. In 1998, he was included in the Junior Achievement U.S Business Hall of Fame. He is also the first living person who will receive the honorable Songwriters Hall of Fame pioneer award (In June 2013). His autobiography ‘To Be Loved’ was published in 1994.
Under Berry’s guidance, Motown became an ideal of black capitalism, creativity and pride. Even in those unwelcoming times for the black people, Berry attempted to spread beyond the radical boundary with music that everyone loved despite color or race. Berry advertised his company as being ‘The Sound of Young America’. Motown was responsible for the parade of hits in the 1960s that revolutionized the American popular music. Berry and his Motown achievements remain to this day unchallenged and matchless.