Berry Gordy is one of the single most influential personalities in establishing rock and roll as a vital component of American popular music. While that may sound like a mouthful, the fact is that Gordy has the stripes, hard won and well earned, to prove it. The credentials are impeccable.
During the 1950's when numerous different currents were already contributing to the broad-based musical culture that became pop mainstream, the rhythm and blues of Memphis, the Tex-Mex of the southwest and the sound of the surf in Southern California all took their place in the mix. At the same time, a small record company in the motor city of Detroit was already staking its claim as well. It all started in 1959, with the opening of the doors of "Hitsville," on Detroit's west side. The Gordy-inspired productions from this recording studio, became a constant stream of hits, released under the Motown label. Companions in the process were the Tamla Records label and the Jobete Music publishing company.
It was right there in the heart of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler country that Detroit became almost as well known for "the house that Berry Gordy built," as for its manufacture of automobiles. At the time of Motown's dawn on the music world, Gordy, already a successful songwriter, was 30 years old, a Detroit native and six years out of the Army, where he served from1951 to 1953 in Korea.
From those beginnings, Gordy's reputation as a music man, as well as an ongoing success story of an urban entrepreneur who made it big, continued to burgeon. It was not long after these earliest moments in 1959 that three young women singers, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and yes, Diana Ross, joined together as The Supremes for Motown, enjoying hit after hit for many years following their initial success with "Where Did Our Love Go?" By the early 60's, The Supremes could do no wrong as they helped establish a momentum for Motown that never slowed for decades to come.
Gordy was instrumental in launching The Supremes but there were numerous others, many of whom were to have an impact for many years. The Jackson Five, which in turn gave rise to the individual careers of both Michael and Janet Jackson, were part of it. Others to make their mark in the Motown family include Lionel Richie. Smokey Robinson and "Little" Stevie Wonder (all inductees into The Songwriters' Hall of Fame) as well as Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Mary Wells and numerous others. Many of these artists, under the constant career development tutelage of Gordy went on to become legends, with major profiles in the music business, even at this moment, almost 40 years later.
Gordy has also enjoyed a successful involvement in films, having executive-produced "Lady Sings the Blues," in which Diana Ross played the lead role of Billie Holiday. Other film credits for Gordy include "The Last Dragon," "Mahogany" and "The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings." In more recent years, Gordy was directly involved in several major ventures celebrating the Motown Story on network TV.
Gordy is an inductee in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and was honored by the Songwiters' Hall of Fame with its coveted Abe Olman Publisher Award five years ago. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for "Excellence in Music." Gordy's autobiography, "To Be Loved," published by Warner Books, was released in 1994. In the area of philanthropy, there is the Gordy Foundation which helps deserving students. The site of the original Hitsville has been transformed into the Motown Historical Museum, visited year-round by tourists from all parts of the world.
Johnny Mercer Award
Abe Olman Publisher Award
Irwin Z. Robinson
Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award
Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award
Patron of the Arts Award
“The Christmas Song”