Berry Gordy

Berry Gordy, Jr. ( born November 28, 1929 in Detroit ) is an American record producer and entrepreneur, the records of the Group " Motown Corporation " belonged.

  • 2.1 Million Sellers
  • 2.2 headquarters of the disk group


Boxer and industrial workers

Berry Gordy was one of eight children of Berry Gordy sr. and Bertha Fuller. Berry Gordy was between 1 December 1947, the January 11, 1950, total ( won 12, lost 3, 2 ​​draws ) 17 boxing matches in the spring weight. In 1951 he was drafted into the army, where he made up his school certificate. After his release, he opened the 1953 record store "3-D Record Mart " with jazz records, which, however, soon after went bankrupt. In the same year he married Thelma Coleman. From 1955 he worked for 2 years at the Ford Motor Company for $ 85 per week on the assembly line. There he built upholstered seats in the Lincoln models. During his spare time he wrote pop songs.


His first composition Reet Petite he could sell in August 1957 for $ 1000 to Decca Records; It reached singer Jackie Wilson in September 1957 Rank 62 of the U.S. pop charts and even rank 6 on the British charts. Gordy wrote for Wilson 4 more consecutive hits. To Be Loved reached in April 1958 Rank 22 of the pop charts and even climbed to # 7 on the rhythm and blues charts. With Lonely Teardrops Gordy and Wilson made ​​a breakthrough when the song after publication in November 1958 reached the first rank of the R & B charts and # 7 on the pop charts. This was followed by That's Why (I Love You So ) ( April 1959; Rank 2 R & B) and I'll Be Satisfied (June 1959 Rank 6 R & B). Despite the success of his compositions royalties flowed sparse. 1959 Gordy was divorced and married the trained musician Raynoma Liles. She advised him to take responsibility for a composition to its music production itself. He followed this advice and started with $ 800 borrowed from his parents money on January 12, 1959, the record label Tamla Records and on December 14, 1959 Motown Records.

Own record labels

Gordy in Detroit in 1953 opened a jazz record store called 3 -D Record Mart, however, soon had to close again.

With borrowed from his family $ 800 - money from his insurance training - Gordy founded 29 years old in 1959 in Detroit two R & B record companies, " Tamla Records " (12 January 1959) and " Motown Records ". He showed business acumen, for he could avoid the then usual penalties that were due at the suspicion of bribery if the radio too many songs were played by the same label. First singer with Tamla Records was Marv Johnson, for the Gordy Come to Me wrote, which was created in 7 takes in the United Sound studio in January 1959 and was released on February 21, 1959 ( Tamla # 101). In Barrett Strong, he found another singer, for which he received the title Money ( That's What I Want) wrote in July 1959. First, he was released in August 1959 Tamla Records (# 54027 ). After airplay by disc jockey Larry Dixon from Detroit radio station WCHB, however, provided a such a big demand that Gordy licensed the rights to his sister Gwen Gordy and the label Anna Records. The label Anna Records had a better distribution system and brought the single on 10 December 1959 ( Anna 1111) on the market again. After placing an ad in Billboard magazine from 4 January 1960, the single reached on 25 January 1960 in the rhythm & blues charts, where it penetrated down to rank 2; in the pop charts, it reached rank 23 now flowed revenue faster so that he could acquire on August 2, 1959, $ 10,500 in Detroit a detached house ( 2648 West Grand Blvd. ). Here, he built a small recording studio, the Motown Recording Studios (Detroit ). On April 14, 1960, the two companies Tamla Motown and were merged into the new company " Motown Record Corporation ".

Million Sellers

First million seller was the Gordy and Smokey Robinson wrote for the Miracles Shop Around ( Tamla 54034 ), which could reach No. 1 R & B and pop charts after publication of rank 2 on 20 September 1960. In this hit, the Miracles were accompanied by label's own studio musicians who made ​​themselves a name as The Funk Brothers. Gordy completed these musicians after the hit Money ( That's What I Want), where two future Funk Brothers were already present. This also played the next million seller, which was published in August 1961 by the Marvelettes Please Mr. Postman, which Gordy had discovered. Gordy was the composer of Contours hit Do You Love Me, which came on the market in June 1962.

From 1964 million seller is presented with Motown into an intensity, as it had previously given in any record label. This only succeeded in Motown, the British Invasion oppose successful American music productions. The Supremes were initially show three singles with million-seller status, namely Baby Love with 3.496 million (recorded on August 13, 1964), Where Did Our Love Go ( 2.72 million; April 8, 1964 ) and Come See About Me ( 1.87 million; July 13, 1964 ). At the same time two Supremes LPs were repeatedly plated ( Supremes A Go-Go with 3.469 million and Where Did Our Love Go with 3.225 million ). Mary Wells had with My Guy (3 March 1964), the Temptations with My Girl (17 November 1964; 1 million ); further and the Four Tops with I Can not Help Myself ( 2.5 million April 9, 1965 ) outstanding bestseller.

Center of the disk group

The 8 rooms of comprehensive residential building Gordy used from now on as corporate headquarters of Tamla Motown Group - visible through the attached to the house sign " Hitsville USA". The Motown Group was formed on April 14, 1960 by merging the label Tamla and Motown Records, more companies and sub-labels were added over time. Gordy was writing and producing team Holland- Dozier -Holland as Ashford / Simpson or Whitfield / Strong, together with the Funk Brothers - Motown sound developed - but not homogeneous. By incorporating violins and brass sections, to advance the sound of pure rhythm and blues, which allowed a crossover into the pop charts succeeded. This in turn opened up white buy stronger population and gave the Group increased sales. Gordy bought expansion, in April 1961, the neighboring buildings from 2244 to 2246 West Grand, in January 1962 West Grand Blvd. 2650-2652 acquired.

In the spirit of his former employer Ford Gordy tried analogous to Fordism the value chain as possible to keep the Group ( the Group's own studio band, studio engineers, composers, music producers, music publishers, talent management for performers ). In the recorded music he introduced a quality control as in the nearby Ford auto plant by the recordings produced per week were presented to a team of managers and reviewed by this. So despite mass production left no piece of music before the publication of the Group; which became a model in the music industry. Of the 25 top hits of the year 1965 in the United States came from Motown 10, 1964-1967, there were 14 Top1 Hits of Motown.

Development of the Group

In September 1966, Gordy purchased for $ 1 million to local rivals Golden World / Ric Tic Records along with repertoire (such as Edwin Starr ) and recording studio. Further expansion in 1968 made ​​the move to the Motown Corporation in the 10 - story office building, " Donovan Building" in Detroit ( 2457 Woodward Avenue ) is required.

That was the year began on August 29, 1968, the litigation of the Group to the most successful writing and producing team Holland / Dozier / Holland, 1963-1968 for 39 of the total of 91 U.S. Top 20 quotes of the Motown group (ie 42%) was responsible. Was even stronger the balance sheet, if one examines the 17 top hits of the Group in this period. Of these, even twelve ( or 70 %) were for HDH (or at least one team member ) registered copyright. Overall, HDH were responsible for 70 Top 10 hits and 50 top hits. Among these top hits, 13 were consecutive top hits. The otherwise in the publication of figures so restrained Motown Group had during the process disclose that HDH had received 1968 bonuses in the amount of 2.2 million U.S. dollars between January 1965 and June. Then HDH responded in December 1968 with a countersuit for fraud and fraudulent misrepresentation of 22 million U.S. dollars because of the group's own music publishing Jobete should have after the composer's opinion filed on the said sum not sufficient to account for payable Royaltys. On January 3, 1972, the mutual actions by an out of court settlement - with the mutual duty of confidentiality - resolved.

As a replacement for HDH Gordy developed the authoring team of Norman Whitfield / Barrett Strong, the October 1968 she began the Motown sound with stylistic elements of the funk and psychedelic rock substantially altered and new accents. Lyrically, was simultaneously a departure from the love theme to socially critical content. Ashford & Simpson attended for a short time also that the interpreters of the Motown group could continue to be supplied with song material.


In June 1972, the company moved the entire group to Los Angeles, now operating as " Mowest ". That brought alongside the local staff a break with it. The Funk Brothers ended their collaboration in Los Angeles, new studios were also established. The record sales were due to the success of The Jackson Five, Commodores with Lionel Richie as a soloist or Stevie Wonder at a high level. Motown could look back on 1975 90 number-one hits and rose to become the largest black music label.

Berry Gordy's largest attention was the lead singer of the Supremes, Diana Ross. He envisioned, from Diana Ross a kind of " black Barbra Streisand " to make. The highlight of the close cooperation be designed Gordy's entry into the film business, where he arranged that Ross could play the role of Billie Holiday in the film Lady Sings the Blues ( Premiere on October 12, 1972). The film was nominated for several Oscars, and Ross was " Best Actress " nomination the same for her first role in the category. At the ceremony, the film ultimately remained without distinction - a bitter disappointment for Ross.

Other film projects in which Gordy personally took care of the production ( Mahogany, October 8, 1975, and The Wiz, October 24, 1978) brought neither the producers nor Ross the desired success. For Gordy, it was a big disappointment, when Ross decided in May 1981 to leave Motown. She signed a doped with $ 20 million deal with RCA, but could not build on his earlier successes. When Diana Ross returned to Motown in 1989, Gordy had already sold its affiliates.

Sale of the Group

In June 1988, Gordy sold the Motown group to MCA / Boston Ventures for $ 61.9 million, in August 1993 sold this joint venture to PolyGram for $ 325 million. PolyGram itself (and thus Motown ) was acquired by Seagram in May 1998, which already controlled the Universal Music Group. In December 2000, Vivendi Universal assumes the Universal Music Group, making it the world's second largest media group.

Gordy had also sold in July 1997, its 50% share of his music publishing Jobete to the EMI Group for $ 132 million. The over 15,000 titles comprehensive catalog of music publishing in 1996 yielded about $ 25 million in gross revenue. Gordy had sold because it appeared the business climate unfavorable. EMI acquired in April 2003, another 30 % of Gordy for $ 110 million to buy in April 2004, the remaining 20 % for $ 88 million. Thus, Berry Gordy had lost the last control of his former Motown Group.


Gordy was married four times and has four children. His son William Kennedy Gordy published in the 1980s under the stage name Rockwell three music albums. Together with Berry Gordy 's grandson Skyler cough Another son, Stefan Gordy founded the Electro / hip-hop duo LMFAO. With Diana Ross Gordy lived for a time in concubinage; from this compound comes his daughter Rhonda Ross Kendrick ( born August 14, 1971 Rhonda Suzanne Silberstein ). On 7 July 2009 Berry Gordy gave a speech at the memorial service for Michael Jackson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.



  • To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown. In 1994. ( Autobiography )