Berry Gordy: Wikis


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Berry Gordy, Jr.
Born November 28, 1929 (1929-11-28) (age 80)
Origin Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Genres Rock, soul, pop
Occupations Record executive, songwriter, record producer, film producer, television producer
Years active 1957–1999
Labels Motown
Associated acts The Jackson 5, The Corporation, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, The Tempations, The Miracles, Michael Jackson

Berry Gordy, Jr.[1] (born November 28, 1929) is an American record producer, and the founder of the Motown record label, as well as its many subsidiaries. As of 15th March 2010 he was the 93rd most succesful songwriter in UK singles chart history.[2]


Early years

Gordy, Jr. (born in Detroit, Michigan) was the seventh of eight children born to the middle class family of Berry Gordy II (a.k.a. Berry Gordy, Sr.)[1] and Bertha Fuller Gordy, who had relocated to Detroit from Milledgeville, Georgia in 1922.

Berry Gordy, Jr's older siblings were all prominent black citizens of Detroit. Berry, however, dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade to become a professional boxer in hopes of becoming rich quick, a career he followed until 1950 when he was drafted by the United States Army for the Korean War.

After his return from Korea in 1953, he married Thelma Coleman. He developed his interest in music by writing songs and opening the 3-D Record Mart, a record store featuring jazz music. The store was unsuccessful and Gordy sought work at the Lincoln-Mercury plant, but his family connections put him in touch with Al Green (not the singer), owner of the Flame Show Bar talent club, where he met singer Jackie Wilson.

In 1957, Wilson recorded Reet Petite, a song Gordy had co-written with his sister Gwen and writer-producer Billy Davis. It became a modest hit but had more success internationally, especially in the UK where it reached the Top 10 and even later topped the chart on re-issue in 1986. Wilson recorded four more songs co-written by Gordy over the next two years, including "Lonely Teardrops", which topped the R & B charts and got to number 7 in the pop chart.

Motown Record Corporation

Gordy reinvested his songwriting success into producing. In 1957, he discovered The Miracles (originally known as The Matadors) and began building a portfolio of successful artists. On December 12, 1959, At Miracles leader Smokey Robinson's encouragement, Gordy borrowed an $800 loan from his family to create an R&B label called Tamla Records on December 14, 1959, which produced Marv Johnson's first hit, "Come To Me." This was picked up for national distribution by United Artists Records who also released the artist's more successful follow-up records such as "You Got What It Takes", co-produced and co-written by Gordy. Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)," after initially appearing on Tamla, charted on Gordy's sister's label Anna Records from February 1960. The Miracles' hit "Shop Around" peaked nationally at #1 on the R&B charts in late 1960 and at #2 on the Billboard pop charts on, January 16, 1961 (#1 Pop, Cash Box), and established Motown as an independent company worthy of notice. Later in 1961, The Marvelettes "Please Mr Postman" made it to the top of both charts.

In 1960, Gordy formed Motown Records as a second label, signed an unknown named Mary Wells who became the fledging label's first star with Smokey Robinson's penned hits like "You Beat Me to the Punch", "Two Lovers" and "My Guy". The Tamla and Motown labels was merged into a new company Motown Record Corporation which was incorporated on April 14, 1960.

Gordy did not cultivate white artists, although some were signed, such as Nick and the Jaguars, Chris Clark, Rare Earth, The Valadiers, Debbie Dean and Connie Haines. Kiki Dee became the first white female British singer to be signed to the Motown label. He also employed many white workers and managers at the company's headquarters, named Hitsville U.S.A., on Detroit's West Grand Boulevard. He largely promoted African-American artists but carefully controlled their public image, dress, manners and choreography for across-the-board appeal.

His gift for identifying and bringing together musical talent, along with the careful management of his artists' public image, made Motown initially a major national and then international success. Over the next decade, he signed such artists as Mary Wells, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Jimmy Ruffin, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Commodores, The Velvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson 5.

Relocation to Los Angeles

In 1972, Gordy attended FIDM in Los Angeles, where he produced the commercially successful Billie Holiday biography Lady Sings the Blues, starring Diana Ross (who was nominated for an Academy Award) and Richard Pryor, and introducing Billy Dee Williams. Initially the studio, over Gordy's objections, rejected Williams after several screen tests. However, Gordy, known for his tenacity, eventually prevailed and the film established Williams as a star. (Williams would also go on to portray Gordy in the 1992 miniseries The Jacksons: An American Dream.) Berry Gordy soon after produced and directed Mahogany, also starring Diana Ross. In 1985, he produced the cult martial arts film The Last Dragon, which starred martial artist Taimak and one of Prince's girls, Vanity.

Although Motown continued to produce major hits throughout the 1970s and 1980s by artists like the Jacksons, Rick James, Lionel Richie and long-term signings, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, the record company was no longer the major force it had been previously. Gordy sold his interests in Motown Records to MCA and Boston Ventures on June 28, 1988 for $61 million. He also later sold most of his interests in the Jobete publishing concern to EMI Publishing.

Gordy published an autobiography, To Be Loved, in 1994.

Awards and accolades

Gordy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999

Gordy was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1998.

Gordy delivered the commencement address at Michigan State University on May 5, 2006 and at Occidental College on May 20, 2007. He received an honorary degree from each school.

Berry Gordy was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame in 2009.

Statements about Motown artists

On March 20, 2009, Gordy was in Hollywood, California, paying tribute to his first group, and first million-selling act, The Miracles,on their receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Speaking in tribute to the group,Gordy said "Without The Miracles, Motown would not be the Motown it is today" [1] [2] [3] [4].

He gave a speech during the Michael Jackson memorial service in Los Angeles on July 7, 2009. Gordy suggested that 'The King of Pop' was perhaps not the best description for Jackson in light of his achievements, rather calling him 'the greatest entertainer that has ever lived'.

Personal life

Gordy—who married and divorced three times—has eight children: Hazel Joy, Berry Gordy IV, Terry James, Sherry, Kennedy (Rockwell), Kerry, Rhonda Ross, and Stefan (Redfoo of LMFAO). His publishing company, Jobete was named after his three oldest children, Joy, Berry and Terry.

With first wife Thelma Coleman he has children Hazel Joy, Berry Gordy IV, and Terry James. They married in 1944 and divorced in 1959.

In Spring 1960 [3] he married second wife Raynoma Mayberry Liles [4][5] . Their son Kerry—born the previous year on June 25, 1959—is a music executive. They divorced in 1964.

Kennedy Gordy born March 15, 1964 is the son of Berry Gordy and then mistress girlfriend Margaret Norton. Kennedy is better known as the Motown musician Rockwell.

Rhonda Ross Kendrick born August 13, 1971 is the daughter of Gordy and the most successful female Motown artist, Diana Ross, with whom he had a long year relationship.

Stefan Kendal Gordy, born September 3, 1975, is Gordy's son with Nancy Leiviska. He is also known as Redfoo of the group LMFAO. Skyler Gordy, his nephew, is the other member of the group, and uses the alias Sky Blu.

Sherry is his daughter by Jeena Jackson.

After dating for eight years, Berry married Grace Eaton on July 17, 1990. They divorced three years later in 1993 [6].

He recently bought a retirement home in Palm Desert, California[citation needed].

References in popular culture

  • The character of Curtis Taylor, Jr., a music executive, in the 2006 musical film Dreamgirls has been called "a thinly veiled portrayal" of Gordy.[7] The film was based on the 1981 musical Dreamgirls, but the film made the connection to Gordy and Motown much more explicit than the musical did, by, among other things, moving the setting of the story from Chicago to Detroit. Taylor appears in the film as unethical and insensitive to his artists, which caused Gordy and others to criticize the film after its release. Gordy called the portrayal "100% wrong", while Smokey Robinson said it "blatantly painted a negative picture of Motown and Berry Gordy and of the Supremes."[8] In 2007, the producers of the film, DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures, issued a public apology to Gordy, saying they were sorry "for any confusion that has resulted from our fictional work." Gordy accepted the apology.[7]


External links

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