Motown is an American record company. The record company was founded
Berry Gordy Jr. as
Tamla Records on January 12, 1959, and was
Motown Record Corporation on April 14, 1960, in
Detroit, Michigan. The name, a portmanteau of motor and town, has
also become a nickname for Detroit.
Motown played an important role in
the racial integration of popular music as an African American-owned
record label that achieved significant crossover success. In the
Motown and its subsidiary labels (including Tamla Motown, the
brand used outside the US) were the most successful proponents of what
came to be known as the
Motown Sound, a style of soul music with a
distinct pop influence. During the 1960s,
Motown achieved spectacular
success for a small record company: 79 records in the Top Ten of the
Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100 record chart between 1960 and 1969.
Following the events of the
Detroit Riots of 1967, and the loss of key
Holland-Dozier-Holland the same year over
pay disputes, Gordy began relocating
Motown to Los Angeles. The move
was completed in 1972 and
Motown expanded into television and film
production, remaining an independent company until June 28, 1994.
The company was then sold to
Motown was later sold to
PolyGram in 1994, before being sold again to MCA Records' successor,
Universal Music Group, when it acquired
PolyGram in 1999.
Motown spent much of the 2000s as a part of the Universal Music
subsidiaries Universal Motown,
Universal Motown Republic Group, and
headquartered in New York City. From 2011 to 2014,
Motown was a part
The Island Def Jam Music Group division of Universal
Music. On April 1, 2014,
Universal Music Group
Universal Music Group announced the
dissolution of Island Def Jam; subsequently
Motown relocated back to
Los Angeles to operate under the Capitol Music Group. It now operates
out of the landmark Capitol Tower.
For many decades,
Motown was the highest-earning African American
business in the United States.
1.1 West Grand Boulevard
1.2 Detroit: 1959–1972
1.3 Los Angeles: 1972–1998
1.4 Final years of the
Motown label: 1999–2005
1.5 Universal Motown: 2005–2011
1.6 Relaunch: 2011–present
2.1 The Funk Brothers
3 Artist development
Motown subsidiary labels
4.1 Major divisions
4.2 Secondary R&B labels
4.3 Additional genre labels
4.3.2 Hip hop/rap
4.4 Independent labels distributed by Motown
4.5 Miscellaneous labels associated with Motown
5 British (pre-Tamla Motown) labels
6 See also
8 External links
Berry Gordy got his start as a songwriter for local
Detroit acts such
Jackie Wilson and the Matadors. Wilson's single "Lonely Teardrops",
written by Gordy, became a huge success, but Gordy did not feel he
made as much money as he deserved from this and other singles he wrote
for Wilson. He realized that the more lucrative end of the business
was in producing records and owning the publishing.
Motown building, at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in
Detroit, Motown's headquarters from 1959 to 1968, which became the
Motown Historical Museum in 1985
In 1959, Billy Davis and Berry Gordy's sisters Gwen and Anna started
Anna Records. Davis and Gwen Gordy wanted Berry to be the company
president, but Berry wanted to strike out on his own. On January 12,
1959, he started Tamla Records, with an $800 loan from his family and
royalties earned writing for Jackie Wilson. Gordy originally wanted to
name the label Tammy Records, after the hit song popularized by Debbie
Reynolds from the 1957 film Tammy and the Bachelor, in which Reynolds
also starred. When he found the name was already in use, Berry decided
on Tamla instead. Tamla's first release, in the
Detroit area, was Marv
Johnson's "Come to Me" in 1959 (released nationally on United
Artists). Its first hit was Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I
Want)" (1959), which made it to number 2 on the Billboard R&B
charts (released nationally on Anna Records).
Gordy's first signed act was the Matadors, who immediately changed
their name to the Miracles. (They were not the Matadors who recorded
for Sue.) Their first release, "Got a Job", was an answer record to
the Silhouettes' "Get a Job" (issued on George Goldner's End Records).
The Miracles' first, minor hit was their fourth single, 1959's "Bad
Girl", released in
Detroit as the debut record on the
and nationally on the Chess label. (Most early
Motown singles were
released through other labels, such as End, Fury, Gone and Chess.)
Miracles lead singer William "Smokey" Robinson became the vice
president of the company (and later named his daughter "Tamla" and his
son "Berry"). Several of Gordy's family members, including his father
Berry Sr., brothers Robert and George, and sister Esther, were given
key roles in the company. By the middle of the decade, Gwen and Anna
Gordy had joined the label in administrative positions as well.
West Grand Boulevard
Also in 1959, Gordy purchased the property that would become Motown's
Hitsville U.S.A. studio. The photography studio located in the back of
the property was modified into a small recording studio, and the
Gordys moved into the second-floor living quarters. Within seven
Motown would occupy seven additional neighboring houses:
Hitsville U.S.A., 1959 – (ground floor) administrative office, tape
library, control room, Studio A; (upper floor) Gordy living quarter
(1959–62), artists and repertoire (1962–72)
Jobete Publishing office, 1961 – sales, billing, collections,
shipping, and public relations
Berry Gordy Jr. Enterprise, 1962 – offices for
Berry Gordy Jr. and
Esther Gordy Edwards
Finance department, 1965 – royalties and payroll
Artist personal development, 1966 –
Harvey Fuqua (head of artist
development and producer of stage performances), Maxine Powell
(instructor in grooming, poise, and social graces for
Maurice King (vocal coach, musical director and arranger), Cholly
Atkins (house choreography), and rehearsal studios
Two houses for administrative offices, 1966 – sales and marketing,
traveling and traffic, and mixing and mastering
ITMI (International Talent Management Inc.) office, 1966 –
Motown had hired over 450 employees and had a gross income of $20
million by the end of 1966.
Motown artists included Mable John,
Eddie Holland and Mary
Wells. "Shop Around", the Miracles' first number 1 R&B hit, peaked
at number two on the
Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. It was Tamla's first
million-selling record. On April 14, 1960,
Motown and Tamla Records
merged into a new company called
Motown Record Corporation. A year
later, the Marvelettes scored Tamla's first US number-one pop hit,
"Please Mr. Postman". By the mid-1960s, the company, with the help of
songwriters and producers such as Robinson, A&R chief William
"Mickey" Stevenson, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Norman
Whitfield, had become a major force in the music industry.
From 1961 to 1971,
Motown had 110 top 10 hits. Top artists on the
Motown label during that period included the Supremes (initially
including Diana Ross), the Four Tops, and the Jackson 5, while Stevie
Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Marvelettes, and the Miracles had hits on the
Tamla label. The company operated several labels in addition to the
Motown imprints. A third label, which Gordy named after
himself (though it was originally called "Miracle") featured the
Temptations, the Contours, and Martha and the Vandellas. A fourth,
V.I.P., released recordings by the Velvelettes, the Spinners, the
Monitors, and Chris Clark.
A fifth label, Soul, featured
Jr. Walker & the All Stars, Jimmy
Ruffin, Shorty Long, the Originals, and Gladys Knight & the Pips
(who had found success before joining Motown, as "The Pips" on
Vee-Jay). Many more Motown-owned labels released recordings in other
genres, including Workshop
Jazz (jazz) Earl Washington Reflections and
Earl Washington's All Stars, Mel-o-dy (country, although it was
originally an R&B label), and Rare Earth (rock), which featured
the band Rare Earth themselves. Under the slogan "The Sound of Young
America", Motown's acts were enjoying widespread popularity among
black and white audiences alike.
Smokey Robinson said of Motown's cultural impact:
Into the 1960s, I was still not of a frame of mind that we were not
only making music, we were making history. But I did recognize the
impact because acts were going all over the world at that time. I
recognized the bridges that we crossed, the racial problems and the
barriers that we broke down with music. I recognized that because I
lived it. I would come to the South in the early days of
the audiences would be segregated. Then they started to get the Motown
music and we would go back and the audiences were integrated and the
kids were dancing together and holding hands.
Berry Gordy House, known as
Motown Mansion in Detroit's Boston-Edison
Berry Gordy purchased what is now known as
Motown Mansion in
Boston-Edison Historic District
Boston-Edison Historic District as his home, leaving his
previous home to his sister Anna and then husband
Marvin Gaye (where
photos for the cover of his album What's Going On were taken). In
1968, Gordy purchased the Donovan building on the corner of Woodward
Avenue and Interstate 75, and moved Motown's
Detroit offices there
(the Donovan building was demolished in January 2006 to provide
parking spaces for Super Bowl XL). In the same year Gordy purchased
Golden World Records, and its recording studio became "Studio B" to
Hitsville's "Studio A".
In the United Kingdom, Motown's records were released on various
labels: at first London (only the Miracles' "Shop Around"/"Who's
Lovin' You" and "Ain't It Baby"), then Fontana ("Please Mr. Postman"
by the Marvelettes was one of four) and then Oriole American
("Fingertips" by Little
Stevie Wonder was one of many). In 1963,
Motown signed with EMI's Stateside label ("Where Did Our Love Go" by
the Supremes and "My Guy" by
Mary Wells were Motown's first British
top-20 hits). Eventually
EMI created the Tamla
Motown label ("Stop! In
the Name of Love" by the Supremes was the first Tamla
in March 1965).
Los Angeles: 1972–1998
After the songwriting trio
Holland–Dozier–Holland left the label
in 1967 over royalty-payment disputes,
Norman Whitfield became the
company's top producer, turning out hits for The Temptations, Marvin
Gaye, Gladys Knight & the Pips and Rare Earth. In the meantime
Berry Gordy established
Motown Productions, a television subsidiary
which produced TV specials for the
Motown artists, including TCB, with
Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations,
Diana! with Diana
Goin' Back to Indiana with the Jackson 5. The company
loosened its production rules, allowing some of its longtime artists
the opportunity to write and produce more of their own material. This
resulted in the recordings of successful and critically acclaimed
albums such as Marvin Gaye's What's Going On (1971) and Let's Get it
On (1973), and Stevie Wonder's
Music of My Mind
Music of My Mind (1972), Talking Book
Motown had established branch offices in both
New York City
New York City and Los
Angeles during the mid-1960s, and by 1969 had begun gradually moving
more of its operations to Los Angeles. The company moved all of its
Los Angeles in June 1972, with a number of artists,
among them Martha Reeves, the Four Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips,
and Motown's Funk Brothers studio band, either staying behind in
Detroit or leaving the company for other reasons. By re-locating,
Motown aimed chiefly to branch out into the motion-picture industry,
Motown Productions got its start in film by turning out two
hit-vehicles for Diana Ross: the
Billie Holiday biographical film Lady
Blues (1972), and Mahogany (1975). Other
Motown films would
include Scott Joplin (1977), Thank God It's Friday (1978), The Wiz
The Last Dragon
The Last Dragon (1985). Ewart Abner, who had been
Motown since the 1960s, became its president in 1973.
Despite losing Holland–Dozier–Holland, Norman Whitfield, and some
of its other hitmakers by 1975,
Motown still had a number of
successful artists during the 1970s and 1980s, including Lionel Richie
and the Commodores, Rick James, Teena Marie, the
Dazz Band and
DeBarge. By the mid-1980s
Motown had started losing money, and Berry
Gordy sold his ownership in
MCA Records (which began a US
distribution deal with the label in 1983) and Boston Ventures in June
1988 for $61 million. In 1989, Gordy sold the
TV/film operations to
Motown executive Suzanne de Passe, who renamed
the company de Passe Entertainment and continues to run it as of
During the 1990s
Motown was home to successful recording artists such
Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men and Johnny Gill, although the company itself remained
in a state of turmoil. MCA appointed a revolving door of executives to
run the company, beginning with Berry Gordy's immediate successor,
Jheryl Busby. Busby quarreled with MCA, alleging that the company did
not give Motown's product adequate attention or promotion. In 1991,
Motown sued MCA to have its distribution deal with the company
terminated, and began releasing its product through PolyGram. PolyGram
Motown from Boston Ventures three years later.
In 1994, Busby was replaced by Andre Harrell, the entrepreneur behind
Uptown Records. Harrell served as Motown's CEO for just under two
years, leaving the company after receiving bad publicity for being
inefficient. Danny Goldberg, who ran PolyGram's
Mercury Records group,
assumed control of Motown, and George Jackson served as president.
Final years of the
Motown label: 1999–2005
Motown had added stars such as 702, Brian McKnight, and
Erykah Badu to its roster. In December 1998,
PolyGram was acquired by
Motown was absorbed into the Universal Music Group.
Seagram had purchased Motown's former parent MCA in 1995, and Motown
was in effect reunited with many of its MCA corporate siblings
Seagram had hoped to build a media empire around Universal, and
started by purchasing PolyGram). Universal briefly considered
shuttering the label, but instead decided to restructure it. Kedar
Massenburg, a producer for Erykah Badu, became the head of the label,
and oversaw successful recordings from Badu, McKnight, Michael
McDonald, and new
Motown artist India.Arie.
Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and the Temptations had
remained with the label since its early days, although all except
Wonder recorded for other labels for several years. Ross left Motown
RCA Records from 1981 to 1988, but returned in 1989 and stayed
until 2002. Robinson left the label in the early 1990s, and the
Temptations left a second time in 2004 (the first time being in 1977).
As of 2018[update], Wonder is the only artist from Motown's early
period still on the label.
Universal Motown: 2005–2011
Universal Motown Records
In 2005, Massenburg was replaced by Sylvia Rhone, former CEO of
Motown was merged with Universal Records to create
Universal Motown Records and placed under the newly created
umbrella division of
Universal Motown Republic Group. Notable artists
Universal Motown included Drake Bell, Ryan Leslie, Melanie Fiona,
Forever the Sickest Kids, and Four Year Strong. In late 2008, Motown
began celebrating its fiftieth anniversary (January 12, 2009),
including the release of a The Complete No. 1's box set containing
Motown number-one hits from Billboard′s pop, R&B, and disco
charts, reissues of classic-era
Motown albums on CD, and other planned
events, which were released in collaboration with Universal Music
Group's catalog division Universal Music Enterprises.
As of summer of 2011,
Universal Motown has been separated from
Universal Motown Republic Group, has reverted to the original Motown
brand, has hired
Ethiopia Habtemariam as its Senior Vice President,
and is now operated under The Island Def Jam Music Group.
Universal Motown have been transferred to the newly
Motown label. On January 25, 2012, it was announced
Ne-Yo would join the
Motown label both as an artist as well as
the new Senior Vice President of A&R. On April 1, 2014, it
was announced that Island Def Jam will no longer be running following
the resignation of CEO Barry Weiss. In a press release sent out by
Universal Music Group, the label will now be reorganizing Def Jam
Island Records and
Motown Records all as separate
Motown would then begin serving as a subsidiary of
It has been suggested that this section be split out into another
Motown Sound. (Discuss) (March 2016)
Motown specialized in a type of soul music it referred to with the
Motown Sound". Crafted with an ear towards pop appeal,
Motown Sound typically used tambourines to accent the back beat,
prominent and often melodic electric bass-guitar lines, distinctive
melodic and chord structures, and a call-and-response singing style
that originated in gospel music. In 1971,
Jon Landau wrote in Rolling
Stone that the sound consisted of songs with simple structures but
sophisticated melodies, along with a four-beat drum pattern, regular
use of horns and strings and "a trebly style of mixing that relied
heavily on electronic limiting and equalizing (boosting the high range
frequencies) to give the overall product a distinctive sound,
particularly effective for broadcast over AM radio". Pop
production techniques such as the use of orchestral string sections,
charted horn sections, and carefully arranged background vocals were
also used. Complex arrangements and elaborate, melismatic vocal riffs
Motown producers believed steadfastly in the "KISS
principle" (keep it simple, stupid). Despite the growth of popular
music being written and performed by black artists, the songs would
not become popular or recognized unless the music was being performed
by white performers.[dubious – discuss] However, the
became distinctly unique. The "real"
Motown Sound became more
favorable than the altered renditions.
Motown production process has been described as factory-like. The
Hitsville studios remained open and active 22 hours a day, and artists
would often go on tour for weeks, come back to
Detroit to record as
many songs as possible, and then promptly go on tour again. Berry
Gordy held quality control meetings every Friday morning, and used
veto power to ensure that only the very best material and performances
would be released. The test was that every new release needed to fit
into a sequence of the top five selling pop singles of the week.
Several tracks that later became critical and commercial favorites
were initially rejected by Gordy; the two most notable being the
Marvin Gaye songs "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "What's Going
On". In several cases, producers would re-work tracks in hopes of
eventually getting them approved at a later Friday morning meeting, as
Norman Whitfield did with "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"
and The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg".
Many of Motown's best-known songs, including all the early hits for
the Supremes, were written by the songwriting trio of
Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie
Holland). Other important
Motown producers and songwriters included
Norman Whitfield, William "Mickey" Stevenson, Smokey Robinson, Barrett
Strong, Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, Frank Wilson, Pamela
Sawyer & Gloria Jones, James Dean & William Weatherspoon,
Johnny Bristol, Harvey Fuqua, Gil Askey, Stevie Wonder, and Gordy
The style created by the
Motown musicians was a major influence on
Motown artists of the mid-1960s, such as Dusty Springfield
and the Foundations. In the United Kingdom, the
Motown Sound became
the basis of the northern soul movement.
Smokey Robinson said the
Motown Sound had little to do with Detroit:
People would listen to it, and they'd say, 'Aha, they use more bass.
Or they use more drums.' Bullshit. When we were first successful with
it, people were coming from Germany, France, Italy, Mobile, Alabama.
From New York, Chicago, California. From everywhere. Just to record in
Detroit. They figured it was in the air, that if they came to Detroit
and recorded on the freeway, they'd get the
Motown sound. Listen, the
Motown sound to me is not an audible sound. It's spiritual, and it
comes from the people that make it happen. What other people didn't
realize is that we just had one studio there, but we recorded in
Chicago, Nashville, New York, L.A.—almost every big city. And we
still got the sound.
The Funk Brothers
Main article: The Funk Brothers
In addition to the songwriting process of the writers and producers,
one of the major factors in the widespread appeal of Motown's music
was Gordy's practice of using a highly-select and tight-knit group of
studio musicians, collectively known as the Funk Brothers, to record
the instrumental or "band" tracks of a majority of
Among the studio musicians responsible for the "
Motown Sound" were
keyboardists Earl Van Dyke, Johnny Griffith, and Joe Hunter;
guitarists Joe Messina, Robert White, and Eddie Willis; percussionists
Eddie "Bongo" Brown and Jack Ashford; drummers Benny Benjamin, Uriel
Jones, and Richard "Pistol" Allen; and bassists
James Jamerson and Bob
Babbitt. The band's career and work is chronicled in the 2002
documentary film Standing in the Shadows of Motown, which publicised
the fact that these musicians "played on more number-one records than
The Beatles, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys
Much of the
Motown Sound came from the use of overdubbed and
Motown songs regularly featured two
drummers instead of one (either overdubbed or in unison), as well as
three or four guitar lines. Bassist
James Jamerson often played
his instrument with only the index finger of his right hand, and
created many of the basslines apparent on
Motown songs such as "Up the
Ladder to the Roof" by The Supremes.
Artist development was a major part of Motown's operations instituted
by Berry Gordy. The acts on the
Motown label were fastidiously
groomed, dressed and choreographed for live performances. Motown
artists were advised that their breakthrough into the white popular
music market made them ambassadors for other African-American artists
seeking broad market acceptance, and that they should think, act, walk
and talk like royalty, so as to alter the less-than-dignified image
commonly held of black musicians by white Americans in that era.
Given that many of the talented young artists had been raised in
housing projects and lacked the necessary social and dress experience,
Motown department was not only necessary, it created an elegant
style of presentation long associated with the label. The artist
development department specialized primarily in working with younger,
less-experienced acts; experienced performers such as
Jr. Walker and
Marvin Gaye were exempt from artist-development classes.
Many of the young artists participated in an annual package tour
called the "Motortown Revue", which was popular, first, on the
"chitlin' circuit", and, later, around the world. The tours gave the
younger artists a chance to hone their performance and social skills
and learn from the more experienced artists.
Motown subsidiary labels
In order to avoid accusations of payola should DJs play too many
records from the original Tamla label, Gordy formed
Motown Records as
a second label in 1960. The two labels featured the same writers,
producers and artists.
Many more subsidiary labels were established later under the umbrella
Motown parent company, including Gordy Records, Soul Records
and VIP Records; in reality the
Motown Record Corporation controlled
all of these labels. Most of the distinctions between
were largely arbitrary, with the same writers, producers and musicians
working on all the major subsidiaries, and artists were often shuffled
between labels for internal marketing reasons. All of these records
are usually considered to be "Motown" records, regardless of whether
they actually appeared on the
Motown Records label itself.
Tamla Records: Established 1959, Tamla was a primary subsidiary for
mainstream R&B/soul music. Tamla is actually the company's
original label: Gordy founded
Tamla Records several months before
Motown Record Corporation. The label's numbering
system was combined with those of
Motown and Gordy in 1982, and the
label was merged with
Motown in 1988. Notable Tamla artists included
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and
the Marvelettes. Tamla was briefly re-activated in 1996 as a reggae
label, but only released a 12" single by
Cocoa Tea called "New
Immigration Law". Tamla also had a sub-label called Penny Records in
1959; artists on that label included Bryan Brent And The Cut Outs, who
recorded a single for the label entitled "Vacation Time" b/w "For
Tamla Records slogan: "The Sound that Makes the
World Go 'Round".
Motown Records: Established 1960,
Motown was and remains the company's
main label for mainstream R&B/soul music (and, today, hip-hop
music as well). The label's numbering system was combined with those
of Tamla and Gordy in 1982, and the label (and company) was purchased
by MCA in 1988. Notable
Motown artists have included Mary Wells, the
Supremes, Four Tops, Michael Jackson, the Jackson 5, Boyz II Men,
Commodores, Lionel Richie, Dazz Band, Brian McKnight, 98 Degrees, and
Motown Records slogan: "The Sound of Young America".
Gordy Records: Established 1962, Gordy was also a primary subsidiary
for mainstream R&B/soul music. Originally known as Miracle Records
(slogan: "If It's a Hit, It's a Miracle"), the name was changed in
1962 to avoid confusion with the Miracles singing group. The label's
numbering system was combined with those of
Motown and Tamla in 1982,
and the label was merged with
Motown in 1988. Notable Gordy artists
included the Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas, the Contours,
Edwin Starr, Rick James, the Mary Jane Girls, Teena Marie, Switch, and
Gordy Records slogan: "It's What's in the Grooves that
Motown Records: Motown's non-US label, established in March 1965
and folded into the regular
Motown label in 1976. Distributed by EMI,
Motown issued the releases on the American
Motown labels, using
its own numbering system. In some cases, Tamla
Motown would issue
singles and albums not released in the
United States (for example, the
singles "I Second That Emotion" and "Why (Must We Fall in Love)" by
Diana Ross & the Supremes with the Temptations, as well as the
Motown Chartbusters series of albums).
Secondary R&B labels
Check-Mate Records: Short-lived (1961–1962) R&B/soul subsidiary,
purchased from Chess Records. Notable artists included David Ruffin
and The Del-Phis (later Martha and the Vandellas).
Miracle Records: Short-lived (1961) R&B/soul subsidiary that
lasted less than a year. Some pressings featured the infamous tagline,
"If it's a hit, it's a Miracle." Renamed
Gordy Records in 1962.
Notable releases included early recordings by
Jimmy Ruffin and the
MoWest Records: MoWest was a short-lived (1971–1973; 1976 in UK)
subsidiary for R&B/soul artists based on the West Coast. Shut down
when the main
Motown office moved to Los Angeles. Notable artists
included G. C. Cameron, the Sisters Love, Syreeta Wright, the Four
Commodores (their first two singles in 1972 and 1973), and
Los Angeles DJ Tom Clay. Unlike other
Motown releases in the UK that
were released by Tamla Motown, MoWest retained its US label design and
logo for its UK releases as well. In fact, MoWest lasted longer in the
UK up until 1976.
Motown Yesteryear: a label created in late 1970s and used through the
1980s for the reissues of 7-inch singles from all eras of the
company's history, after printing in the initial label has ceased.
Motown Yesteryear single made Billboard′s Top 40 – the
Contours' "Do You Love Me", in 1988, when its inclusion in the film
Dirty Dancing revived interest.
Soul Records: Established in 1964, Soul was a R&B/soul subsidiary
for releases with less of a jazz feel and/or more of a blues feel.
Notable Soul artists included
Jr. Walker & the All-Stars, Shorty
Long, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Originals, the Fantastic Four,
and Jimmy Ruffin. The label was dissolved in 1978. This label has no
affiliation with the short-lived S.O.U.L. Records- an early 1990s
imprint that was founded by the production team the Bomb Squad.
V.I.P. Records: Established in 1964, V.I.P. was an R&B/soul
subsidiary. Notable artists included the Velvelettes, the Spinners,
the Monitors, the Elgins and Chris Clark. The label was dissolved in
Weed Records: A very short-lived subsidiary. Only one release, Chris
Clark's 1969 CC Rides Again album, was issued. This release featured
the tongue-in-cheek tagline: "Your Favorite Artists Are On Weed". The
logo was a parody of the "Snapping Fingers" logo for Stax Records, but
the hand in this case is holding up a peace sign. The name "Weed
Records" is now owned by the Tokyo/New York-based Weed Records.
Additional genre labels
Mel-o-dy Records.: Established in 1962 as a secondary R&B/soul
music subsidiary, Mel-o-dy later focused on white country music
artists. Notable Mel-o-dy artists include Dorsey Burnette. The label
was dissolved in 1965.
Triple Tigers Records.: Established in 2017 country music artists.
Hitsville Records.: Founded as Melodyland Records in 1974. After the
Melodyland Christian Center threatened legal action, the name was
changed to Hitsville in 1976. Like Mel-o-dy before it, Hitsville
focused on country music. Run by
Mike Curb and Ray Ruff, Hitsville's
notable artists included Ronnie Dove, Pat Boone,
T. G. Sheppard and
Jud Strunk. The label was dissolved in 1977. In the UK,
Melodyland/Hitsville material was released on MoWest.
M.C. Records: Operated 1977 to 1978 as a continuation of the Hitsville
label. A joint venture between Gordy and Mike Curb. The Mel-o-dy,
Hitsville, and M.C. catalogs are now managed by Mercury Nashville
Wondirection Records.: A record label owned by Stevie Wonder, it had
one 12-inch dance release, the 10' 35" rap track "The Crown" by Gary
Byrd and the G.B. Experience.
Mad Sounds Recordings.: Short-lived hip-hop/rap subsidiary label,
released five albums in the mid-1990s- including Zig Zag by Tha
Mexakinz, Trendz by Trendz of Culture and
Rottin ta da Core by
Jazz Records.: Motown's jazz subsidiary, active from 1962 to
1964. Notable Workshop
Jazz artists included the George Bohannon Trio,
Earl Washington All Stars, and
Four Tops (whose recordings for the
label went unissued for 30 years). The Workshop
Jazz catalog is
currently managed by Verve Records.
Blaze Records.: A short-lived label featuring a Jack Ashford
instrumental released in September 1969, "Do The Choo-Choo" with
b-side "Do The Choo-Choo Pt II" written by L. Chandler, E. Willis, J.
Ashford, with label number 1107.
Jazz Records.: Another jazz label created in the 1990s, this was
Motown's most successful jazz imprint. Notable artists included Norman
Brown, Foley, Norman Connors, and J. Spencer. It also reissued
instrumental albums like Stevie Wonder's 1968 album
Eivets Rednow and
Grover Washington Jr.'s CTI/Kudu albums under the Classic Mo Jazz
subsidiary. This label (including its roster and catalog) was folded
Verve Records after the PolyGram/Universal merger.
Rare Earth Records.: Established in 1969 after the signing of Rare
Earth (after whom the label was named),
Rare Earth Records
Rare Earth Records was a
subsidiary focusing on rock music by white artists. Notable acts
included Rare Earth, R. Dean Taylor, the Pretty Things, Love
Sculpture, Kiki Dee, Toe Fat,
The Cats and Shaun Murphy (both solo and
her collaborations with Meat Loaf). The label also was the subsidiary
to house the first white band signed to Motown, the Rustix.
Prodigal Records.: Purchased by
Motown in 1974,
Motown used Prodigal
Records as a second rock music subsidiary; a sister label to Rare
Earth Records. The Rare Earth band moved over to the label
following the Rare Earth label's demise. Pop singer Charlene's #3 pop
I've Never Been To Me
I've Never Been To Me was originally released and
charted on this label in 1977 (#97). Prodigal was dissolved in 1978.
Morocco Records.: Acronym for "MOtown ROCk COmpany". As the name
suggests, Morocco was a rock music subsidiary. Active from 1983 to
1984, it was a short-lived attempt to revive the Rare Earth Records
concept. Only seven albums were released on the label. Its two most
Duke Jupiter and the black new wave trio Tiggi Clay
(via their lead singer, Fizzy Qwick) eventually moved to the parent
Divinity Records.: Short-lived (1962–1963) gospel subsidiary. With
five releases by artists- Wright Specials, Gospel Stars, Bernadettes,
and Liz Lands. Label sequence starts at 99004 to 99008, the final
recording being "We Shall Overcome" (for label number 99008) that was
recorded in the Graystone Ballroom, was withdrawn and transferred to
GORDY 7023B as "I Have A Dream" speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
Black Forum Records.: A spoken-word subsidiary that focused mainly on
albums featuring progressive political and pro-civil rights
speeches/poetry. Black Forum issued recordings by the Rev. Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Elaine Brown, Langston Hughes,
Margaret Danner, and others from 1970 until 1973.
Natural Resources: This label was active from 1972 to 1973 and in 1976
as a minor subsidiary for white artists and instrumental bands. It
served as a label for Motown, Tamla and Gordy reissues and Motown
compilation albums in 1978 and 1979.
Motown Latino Records.: Short-lived (1982) subsidiary for
Spanish-language Latin American music. Its only artist was Jose
Ocean Front Records.: Catalog division, founded in company's heyday.
Closed in 1983
Gaiee Records.: Only one single was released on this label in 1975;
Valentino's "Gay/Lesbian" anthem "I Was Born This Way", which was
later covered by fellow
Carl Bean in 1977.
Independent labels distributed by Motown
Biv 10 Records: A hip-hop/R&B label that was founded by Bell Biv
New Edition member Michael Bivins. The label operated throughout
most of the 1990s. Its roster included Another Bad Creation, Boyz II
Men, and 702.
Motown released output for Chisa, a label owned by Hugh
Masekela, from 1969 to 1972 (prior to that, the label was distributed
by Vault Records).
Motown distributed output for CTI Records, a jazz label
owned by Creed Taylor, from 1974 to 1975. CTI subsidiaries distributed
Motown included Kudu Records, Three Brothers Records and Salvation
Three Brothers Records: A short-lived sublabel of
CTI Records that had
two single releases. One was by a
Spike Jones influenced group called
The Clams. With a few exceptions, the bulk of CTI's recordings is
now owned by Sony Music Entertainment.
Ecology Records: A very short-lived label owned by
Sammy Davis Jr.
Sammy Davis Jr. and
distributed by Motown. Only release: single "In My Own Lifetime"/"I'll
Begin Again", by Davis in 1971.
Gull Records: A UK-based label still in operation,
Gull's output in the US in 1975. Gull had
Judas Priest on its roster
in 1975, but their LP Sad Wings of Destiny, intended for release by
Motown in the US, was issued after the Motown/Gull Deal had fallen
Manticore Records: A record label created by the members of the rock
group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Manticore released albums by ELP and
Progressive rock artists. Manticore was originally
distributed in the U.S. by
Atlantic Records from 1973 to 1975 but
Motown distribution until the label folded in 1977.
Miscellaneous labels associated with Motown
Summer Camp Records
British (pre-Tamla Motown) labels
London American Records issued the releases for
Motown from 1960 to
Fontana Records issued the releases for
Motown from 1961 to 1962.
Oriole American Records issued the releases for
Motown from 1962 to
Stateside Records issued the releases for
Motown from 1963 to 1964,
when the Tamla
Motown label was created.
Music of Detroit
^ a b Cruz, Gilbert (12 January 2009). "A Brief History of Motown".
TIME. TIME Magazine. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
^ "History - Classic Motown".
Retrieved 15 October 2016.
^ Woodford, Arthur M. (2001). This is Detroit, 1701 - 2001 (1 ed.).
Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State Univ. Press. p. 198.
^ The Sound of the City, Charlie Gillett, Sphere Books, 1971, p.247
^ a b "
Ethiopia Habtemariam Named Senior Vice President of Motown
Records". Billboard.biz. August 10, 2011. Retrieved December 12,
^ a b Ben Sisario, "A Young Music Executive Takes Over at Motown", New
York Times, August 10, 2011. Archived January 17, 2016, at the Wayback
^ a b "Brandon Creed Joins Universal Republic And Island Def Jam
Motown". Universal Music. August 15, 2011. Retrieved December 12,
^ "A revitalized
Capitol Records forges a new path forward". LA Times.
2015-02-03. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
Motown Museum. August 24, 2011. Retrieved December
^ Ron Thibodeaux, "My Smokey Valentine", The Times-Picayune (New
Orleans, La.), February 14, 2009.
^ a b "The
Motown Mansion!". Motownmansion.com. Retrieved December 12,
^ Williams, Brennan (January 25, 2012). "
Ne-Yo Leaves Def Jam For
Motown Records". Huffington Post.
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Ne-Yo Leaves Def Jam To Become
Motown Exec", MTV
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original on May 8, 2015. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
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^ Chin, Brian & David Nathan, "Reflections Of..."
The Supremes [CD
boxed-set liner notes] (New York:
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Cooper Square, 1988; updated 2002). ISBN 0-8154-1218-5, p. 157.
^ Pitts, Leonard. “The
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^ Yourse, Robyn-Denise (May 19, 2006). "Diana Ross: old wine in 'Blue'
bottles". The Washington Times. News World Communications. Retrieved
September 16, 2012 – via HighBeam. (Subscription required
^ Hirshey, Gerri (1994 ). Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul
Music. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-306-80581-2.
^ a b c Justman, Paul (2002). Standing in the Shadows of
Santa Monica, California: Artisan Entertainment.
^ Pitts, Leonard, Jr. “The
Motown Factor”. Jazziz. Issue 20.12.
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^ Laurie, Timothy (2012). "Crossover Fatigue: The Persistence of
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^ Mike Callahan, Patrice Eyries, David Edwards. "Gordy Album
Discography, Part 1 (1962-1981)". bsnpubs.com. Retrieved
Motown Junkies". article. motownjunkies.co.uk. Retrieved
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^ Mike Callahan, David Edwards. "Weed Album Discography". article.
bsnpubs.com. Retrieved 2014-03-16.
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Independent. London. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
^ Mike Callahan, David Edwards. "M.C. Album Discography". article.
bsnpubs.com. Retrieved 2014-03-16.
^ "Mad Sounds Recordings". Discogs.com. Retrieved December 12,
^ Mike Callahan, David Edwards. "Prodigal Album Discography". article.
bsnpubs.com. Retrieved 2014-03-16.
^ Rickey Vincent, "Louder Than a Bomb: On The Sounds of Black Power"
(review of Pat Thomas, Listen, Whitey!: the Sights and Sounds of Black
Power 1965-1975) Archived April 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine., Los
Angeles Review of Books, October 17, 2012.
^ "The Clams". Petelevin.com. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
Motown Records website
Complete discography of pre-1986
Complete discography of pre-1986
Motown artists interviewed on the
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