Motown, or the Motown sound, is a style of rhythm and blues music named after the record company Motown in Detroit, where teams of songwriters and musicians produced material for girl groups, boy bands, and solo singers during the 1960s and early 1970s.
Motown The Label
Motown was in and of itself something incredible and profound. It was more than a record label. Motown was more like a place in time and space. It breeded talent and fostered exceptional ability. It can be speculated that if the same artists were signed and recorded for other labels, they would not have attained the levels and success Motown afforded them.
Likewise, if other artists of that time had recorded for Motown, their careers would’ve been bigger.
Berry Gordy was a man with a vision who surrounded himself with the right pieces to imagine that vision. He obviously had a gift for choosing talent when it came to every aspect of his label.
Berry Gordy was very controlling and didn’t allow artists much freedom when it came to input. He chose the writers and producers for each act as well as the songs they would record. If he didn’t like the outcome, he would pass the song to another artist to find that specific chemistry and connection.
He came to trust Smokey Robinson to write and produce for other acts. Then again, he employed Smokey as a writer initially and mentored him in the art of songwriting. He also came to trust Stevie Wonder as a songwriter and producer. Stevie also
Motown The Product
He had great musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, choreographers, hair stylists, fashion stylists, etc. He didn’t just want singers singing. He wanted the best singers singing the best songs. He didn’t just want his artists to dress up. He wanted his artists to look stunning and dapper. He wanted uniformity and presence onstage. Groups looked like a collective.
He wanted movement and showmanship onstage. He didn’t rest on the fact that the artists could just stand there and sing great songs. Berry Gordy gave the audience more than they could ask for. He presented a show at the highest level. He branded the label and the artists simultaneously. He had artists who bought into his ideas and worked tirelessly to deliver.
Many urban record labels came before and after Motown. It’s more than just employing great talent. Motown hand-picked its artists and created superstars. The label had a huge roster of artists over the years and the label invested in them and created
The Four Tops
Gladys Knight & The Pips
The Jackson 5
Jr Walker & The All Stars
Martha & The Vandellas