Berry Gordy

Berry Gordy (1994)
Duration: 00:27:47

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Themes: Musical Roots and Branches | Poverty, Progress, and the Rise of African-American Businesses and Professionals | Motor City and Motown |

Guests: Berry Gordy
Host : Darryl Wood [bio]Darryl Wood hosted the show for ten years from 1988 to 1998 under the title American Black Journal. His shows focused on the skills and talents of many of the nation's leading African-American business people.

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Producer : Tony Mottley

Summary: Founder of Motown Records, Berry Gordy is a legend in Detroit as well as nationally. Broadcast in 1994 as part of Gordy's tour to promote his autobiography, To Be Loved, host Darryl Wood talks with Gordy about the early days of his career.

Gordy says he wrote the autobiography to set the record straight about Motown's history and what it took to get Motown started. "I want them (young people) to know the real truth about how Motown was made so if they intend to do something like that, they've got to deal with principle, they've got to deal with values they've got to deal with integrity, honor," Gordy says.

Gordy talks about the difficulty of following his dream. It occasionally embarrassed his family because he did not appear to be on a steady career path. He was a high school dropout, and at the age of 29, he says, though he had written three hit songs for Jackie Wilson, he had little to show for it. "I was a bum," he says. "I was a songwriter. I was a dreamer."

But Gordy eventually persuaded his family to loan him $800 to produce one record. That record became a local hit in Detroit and was picked up by United Artists records for national distribution. That success enabled him to establish Motown Records.

Gordy goes on to speak about the creative environment he sought to nurture at Motown's studio on West Grand Boulevard. The studio's environment, he says, was built on "fierce love" and "fierce competition." Gordy explains that everything was focused on training, supporting and strengthening the artists so they would be at their best when they went before an audience.

"At Hitsville they were safe," he says. "Within those walls they were free to think. They were free to create."

The program is a fascinating examination of the early struggle of a landmark African American business and an important part of Detroit's - and America's - cultural history. It also offers valuable insight into the life and history of an important African American entrepreneur.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 1, File 18, Music – Detroit Style – February 19, 1980
Box 1, File 43, Masters of Music - 1982
Box 8, File 26, Behind the Scenes in Music – February 16, 1994 – Show # 2521
Box 15, File 11, Black Music Shows
Box 19, File 16, Musician Bios.