Feature

Motown's 50th anniversary

Looking back at the history of the legendary R&B record label

“The year of Motown memories has begun,” said the Associated Press. On Monday, the legendary R&B label, which was founded in Detroit as Tamla Records by Berry Gordy Jr. in 1959 with a loan for $800, turned 50-years-old. Motown Records spun out chart-topping hits by the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, and many others over the years—there’s a lot to celebrate.

One of Gordy's most remarkable achievements was in breaking down racial barriers in American entertainment, said Mick Brown in London's Telegraph. A lesser-known fact about Gordy is that his “enlightened attitudes also extended to gender issues—Motown was the first major label to release a single openly declaring gay pride.”

“The joyful, soulful, upbeat Motown sound did change the world" and epitomize the American dream, said Pierre Perrone in Ireland’s Evening Herald. But there was also a “murky” side to the label. “Gordy considered most singers, producers and musicians to be part of the machinery and expendable,” and Motown's "competitive nature" robbed some acts of the care and attention they deserved.

Maybe, said NME, but Motown is “one of the world's most important and iconic record labels.” And its influence is far-reaching—“acts as diverse as George Michael, the Beatles, the Jam, the Beach Boys, the Slits and Delroy Wilson have recorded Motown covers.”

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