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|Also Known As:||Gordy, Berry Gordy Jr.||Died:|
|Born:||November 28, 1929||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Detroit, Michigan, USA||Profession:||executive|
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ith the Motown label, was a low-budget comedy that was a smash with ticket buyers, but their next effort, an expensive feature version of the Broadway musical "The Wiz" (1978), with Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell and Richard Pryor, was a costly flop. From that point onward, Motown Productions placed its focus squarely on television specials about Motownâ¿¿s legacy. Gordy eventually sold the company in 1989 to his longtime right-hand-woman, Suzanne de Passe.Roster changes were almost constant at Motown during the 1970s and 1980s; the Jackson Five moved to Epic in 1975, while Ross caused Gordy considerable anguish by leaving the label in 1981. Their rumored relationship exceeded the bounds of typical company owner-talent arrangements; the pair had a lengthy romantic involvement, from which a daughter, Rhonda Ross Kendrick, was born while Ross was married to Robert Silberstein. It would take Ross decades to own up to her romance with Gordy and the paternity of her eldest child, even though for years the resemblance between Gordy and Rhonda was undeniable. If consolation could be found from such blows, Gordy found it in the record sales generated by the labelâ¿¿s newest acts, the Commodores and...
ith the Motown label, was a low-budget comedy that was a smash with ticket buyers, but their next effort, an expensive feature version of the Broadway musical "The Wiz" (1978), with Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell and Richard Pryor, was a costly flop. From that point onward, Motown Productions placed its focus squarely on television specials about Motownâ¿¿s legacy. Gordy eventually sold the company in 1989 to his longtime right-hand-woman, Suzanne de Passe.
Roster changes were almost constant at Motown during the 1970s and 1980s; the Jackson Five moved to Epic in 1975, while Ross caused Gordy considerable anguish by leaving the label in 1981. Their rumored relationship exceeded the bounds of typical company owner-talent arrangements; the pair had a lengthy romantic involvement, from which a daughter, Rhonda Ross Kendrick, was born while Ross was married to Robert Silberstein. It would take Ross decades to own up to her romance with Gordy and the paternity of her eldest child, even though for years the resemblance between Gordy and Rhonda was undeniable. If consolation could be found from such blows, Gordy found it in the record sales generated by the labelâ¿¿s newest acts, the Commodores and Rick James, as well as with established artists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Miracles. The company continued to hold influence in the recording industry well into the 1980s, especially after the release of Commodores lead singer Lionel Richieâ¿¿s solo album Canâ¿¿t Slow Down (1984), which became the companyâ¿¿s biggest hit in its history after selling 10 million copies worldwide, and gave their one-time Motown resident Michael Jacksonâ¿¿s Thriller a run for its money on the Billboard charts.
But as the decade drew to a close, Motownâ¿¿s fortunes began to slow. With the majority of its classic acts now defunct, considered passÃ©, on other labels, or, in the tragic case of Gaye, deceased, the Motown Sound was gradually losing its finger on the pulse of Young America. Efforts to expand the imprint to Latin and rock audiences failed to generate much interest, so in 1988, Gordy sold his interests to MCA and Boston Ventures for $61 million â¿¿ the same year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He later followed suit with Jobete, which went to EMI Publishing in 1997. With sister Esther Edwards, he helped to preserve the recording studio known as "Hitsville USA" by turning it into the Motown Museum.
A retired Gordy spent most of the 1990s and new millennium reaping honors for his contributions to American popular culture. The recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award in 1969, he added further laurels in 1991 with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Award and in 2009 with induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Gordy also chronicled his life and history with Motown in his 1994 autobiography, To Be Loved. He was portrayed in several TV projects related to Motown, including "The Jacksons: An American Dream" (ABC, 1992), where he was played by his former leading man, Billy Dee Williams, and by Obba Babatunde in "The Temptations" (1998). The character of Curtis Taylor, Jr. from the 1981 musical "Dreamgirls," which was inspired by the lives and careers of the Supremes, was reportedly based on Gordy; the 2006 film version, with Jamie Foxx as Taylor was more explicit in connecting the character to Gordy, who publicly criticized the decision. The filmâ¿¿s producers, DreamWorks and Paramount, later apologized for the slight. The most press coverage Gordy had received in years came sadly with the shocking passing of Michael Jackson on June 25, 2009. Jackson, who had reportedly worshipped Gordy as a father figure during his childhood spent at Motown, had remained fond of his old boss. The feeling was mutual, as Gordy spoke lovingly of his onetime protÃ©gÃ© at the televised M.J. funeral seen round the world in July 2009.n the map as a center for popular music, as well as expand Motownâ¿¿s fortunes. By 1960, Gordy owned nine houses on West Grand Avenue that contained the offices for the Motown Recording Company, which included Motownâ¿¿s numerous record labels, such as Tamla, VIP and Soul; a recording studio called "Hitsville USA;" the offices of Jobete publishing; International Talent Management, Inc; and the Motown Artistsâ¿¿ Development Department, which groomed the up-and-coming talent according to Gordyâ¿¿s desire to present them as refined, educated young men and women. Each was devoted to a single purpose: to present "The Sound of Young America," a blend of pop, R&B and rock-n-roll that preserved its African-American roots in its impassioned vocals while appealing to white audiences with its undeniable rhythms and lyrics about young love and good times.
The addition of acts like the Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas, the Isley Brothers and teenage genius Stevie Wonder only boosted the sheer number of hits that Motown was churning out each year. By 1971, they could boast some 110 chart-topping songs in their roster. Many of these became outright classics of pop music, including Gayeâ¿¿s "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," the Supremesâ¿¿ "You Canâ¿¿t Hurry Love," the Temptationsâ¿¿ "My Girl," Martha Reevesâ¿¿ "Heat Wave," and on and on. By the late Sixties, Motown had expanded its empire to include offices in downtown Detroit and Los Angeles, but not everything was golden behind boardroom doors. Many artists privately chafed at the restrictions placed on them by Gordy, including which songs they could record and with which producers; disputes over royalty payments â¿¿ the same issue that forced Gordy to launch the label â¿¿ resulted in arguably his most successful writer-producer team, the Holland brothers and Lamont Dozier â¿¿ to quit the company in 1967. Two new labels, Hot Wax and Invictus, also failed to generate the same level of excitement as his older imprints.
Despite these setbacks, Gordy was still sitting atop a hit-making empire with Motown. Acts like Wonder, the Temptations, Gaye, and a now solo Diana Ross were recording some of their greatest and most adventurous music in the early 1970s. As a bonus, a new family group called the Jackson 5 â¿¿ headlined by a precocious preteen named Michael Jackson â¿¿ was soon to take its place alongside the other Motown acts as one of its most popular outfits. In 1972, Gordy moved the label to Los Angeles to branch out into the motion picture and television industry. The relocation caused yet another schism within Motown, with many acts, including Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Four Tops, and the labelâ¿¿s crack band of session players, the Funk Brothers, either remaining in Detroit or quitting Motown altogether.
Though the defections pained Gordy, he pressed on with his dreams of an entertainment empire. The Motown Productions label, which had produced several successful TV specials, including "TCB" (NBC, 1968) with the Supremes and the Temptations, launched into full gear with specials for Diana Ross ("Diana!" ABC, 1971) and the Jackson Five ("Going Back to Indiana," ABC, 1971). Gordy retired as President of Motown Records to become chairman of the Board at Motown Industries, which oversaw its interests in film, television and publishing. Motown Productionsâ¿¿ first motion picture was a starring vehicle for Gordyâ¿¿s rumored girlfriend, Diana Ross, called "Lady Sings the Blues" (1972), which told the story of tragic jazz singer Billie Holiday. A success at the box office, it garnered five Oscar nominations, including one for Ross, and placed Motown squarely on the movie business map, to say nothing of boasting a virtually all African-American cast. A follow-up, "Mahogany" (1975), was a sudsy showbiz drama that reunited Ross with her "Blues" co-star Billy Dee Williams, who went on to star in Motownâ¿¿s next features, "Bingo Longâ¿¿s Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings" (1976) and the biopic "Scott Joplin" (1977). "Thank God Itâ¿¿s Friday" (1978), which melded the growing disco craze w
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