Motown Records founder plans musical about his life

May 31, 2011

Berry Gordy developing autobiographical production featuring songs by Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson, say reports

By Sean Michaels
Published Friday 20 May 2011 11.15 BST in

Berry Gordy, the 81-year-old founder of Motown Records, is reportedly developing an autobiographical musical with a planned budget of $100m (£61m).Gordy founded Motown in 1960, building a music empire on stellar talent-scouting and a disciplined – even dictatorial – hit-making method. The first record label owned by an African American, Motown launched artists including Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson Five. Gordy’s memoir-musical will presumably be set in the Motor City itself, Detroit; the New York Post reports it will be set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement of the 60s.

“Berry’s been wanting to do this for a long time,” a source told the New York Post. “This is his chance to set the record straight … He’s got the money and investors lined up.” Gordy has reportedly teamed up with Kevin McCollum, who produced the hit musical Rent, and former Universal Music CEO Doug Morris. They plan to fill the score with classics by Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and other Motown acts, which won’t be too tricky: Gordy owns the rights to most of them.

While Gordy seems keen on a musical about his label, the New York Post alleges he has blocked attempts to turn the life of one of his biggest stars, Marvin Gaye, into a film. Though director Julien Temple is now working on a biopic of the singer, Gordy has been “quietly blocking the scripts and music because he doesn’t want his name dragged through the mud”, claimed a source. “[He] basically owns the rights to the Marvin Gaye story.” Gordy and Gaye had a famously strained relationship: Gaye married Gordy’s sister, and they fought for control over projects such as What’s Going On. “All licensing of anything Motown has to go through EMI,” Gordy’s publicist said. “Mr Gordy is unaware of any projects being blocked.”

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dentist West Los Angeles 15 July 25, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I really like your blog! Mo town music, unfortunately, doesn’t get as much attention as it used to. It’s really one of the most interesting times from musical history and it’s really nice to see some people out there still getting that reminder out there. Thanks :)


2 SonDan July 25, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Thank you for you kind words.
I really want to keep this great music in the public eye. It may sound trite but “they *really* don’t make them like this anymore”.
It seems that the art of songwriting is dead. Life gets rough, but this great music makes me smile and feel good so I will continue to promote these “oldies but goodies” in any way I can.

I really appreciate your visit and hope to see you on the regular. Glad we found each other.



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