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Motown: A history of success

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The creation of the Motown Record Label.
    1. Crossover.
    2. A particular sound.
    3. A factory-like strategy to produce hits.
    4. Brilliant songwriters: The example of Holland-Dozier-Holland.
    5. Talented musicians.
    6. Great Singers turned into stars: Black paternalism and artist development.
  3. Best Motown artists.
    1. The Four Tops.
    2. The Temptations.
    3. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
    4. Diana Ross &The Supremes.
    5. Michael Jackson & the Jackson 5.
    6. Stevie Wonder.
    7. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
    8. The Marvelettes.
  4. Bibliography.

?Music, Money, Sex and Power.? That is how, in four unequivocal words, Gerald L. Posner defines Motown, the record label which transformed the landscape of American popular culture. The personage who embodies this definition is Berry Gordy Junior. His story is the story of Motown: that is why he is sometimes called "Mr. Motown." Gordy chose between the ring and the record business : "I then noticed the fighters were about 23 and looked 50 - the band leaders about 50 and looked 23" and launched Motown in 1959 in the city of Detroit with just an $800 family loan. But is the secret to Motown's success just ?music, money, sex and power?? Was Berry Gordy only interested in wealth and women? And is he the only figure who embodied Motown and turned it into a hit factory? I will briefly, as an introduction, give an overview on the creation of the record label and then focus on the major aspects of Motown in order to understand the keys to its success. I chose this subject because for me Motown is not only a huge American cultural exception by the originality of its strategy but also a revolution in the American mass culture.

[...] I think that a triangle, a pyramid could perfectly sum up three of the major keys to Motown's Success with Berry Gordy at the top of it and with three others important elements subaltern to Gordy. These three elements would be: brilliant song writers - I will take the example of Holland- Dozier-Holland, talented musicians such as the Funk Brothers and finally great singers turned into stars like The Supremes. Berry Gordy Song Writers - Musicians - Singers The pyramid structure is for me the perfect explanation of Motown's strategy: Berry Gordy and the song writers are the architects of the Motown Sound, the musicians and the singers are the artists of it Brilliant Songwriters : The Example of Holland-Dozier-Holland The team of songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland, composed of Lamont Dozier and two brothers Brian Holland and Edward Holland Jr., is one of the best examples of how songwriters are paramount to the Motown Sound. [...]


[...] Gerald Early also highlights in his book the fact that ?Gordy was able to manipulate brilliantly both his black and his white audience by having Motown as vaguely a ?race company? satisfy certain nationalistic yearnings for blacks while presenting it as an ?assimilationist success story? for whites.? In a way, Berry Gordy sort of did black music for whites and thus changed the usual public of its music. He is the first one who did that and succeeded in this strategy, as 70% of his records were bought by whites. [...]


[...] Some of her hits: 'Where Did Our Love Hear A Symphony,' 'Nothing But Heartaches,' 'Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart,' 'River Deep, Mountain High,' 'Love Child.' Michael Jackson & the Jackson 5 Diana Ross was instrumental in introducing child prodigy Michael Jackson to Motown when he was only 11. He soon topped the charts with four singles in a row. Later he left the family group the Jackson 5 and now, as a world superstar, he continues to top the charts with his shocking and innovative videos, while at the same time trying to deflect rumours and charges of child molestation. [...]

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