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Berry Gordy Jr.

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Born November 28th 1929 - Detroit Michigan

 

The founder of Motown records was born this day 88 years ago, the seventh child of eight. His father was enterprising and prospered through the grinding poverty of the depression running a number of business including a grocery store, a plastering business and managing several apartment buildings.

 

Berry Gordy dropped out of high school to follow his passions: music and boxing. Despite being a successful lightweight at 19 years old, he realised there was likely to be more money and a better life in the music business. He was already a good songwriter and after a spell in the army he opened a record shop in Detroit which failed. In 1956 whilst working at Ford in the daytime to support his wife and three children, Gordy wrote songs at night including the hit songs "Reet Petite", "Lonely Teardrops" and "To Be Loved" for Jackie Wilson.

 

A chance meeting with a young singer and song writer named William 'Smokey' Robinson proved to be a long and profitable partnership and a friendship that endures today. Gordy had the drive, determination and entrepreneurial ability to build a music empire that would see black American music 'cross over' into millions of white homes in the USA and eventually around the world. Gordy bought a house at 2648 West Grand Boulevard which he named "Hitsville" and that address is probably the most famous address in musical history. 

 

Gordy was shrewd and imaginative keeping his artists under tight contracts and owning all rights to music produced at his company. He encouraged the ever growing number of new singers and musicians lining up at Hitsville to produce hit records that rolled out of the studios the way cars rolled off the production line at Ford. Gordy famously took an $800 loan from his family and built one of the biggest record labels and he remains the most successful black record label founder of all time.

 

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