Facts about Berry Gordy
Berry Gordy Biography
Berry Gordy, Jr. founded and was the force behind Motown Records, the Detroit record label that produced a string of hit records in the 1960s and ’70s by African American artists such as Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
Gordy began his career as a featherweight boxer, but after 17 bouts was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951. Once out of the military, he worked a series of odd jobs and began writing songs in his spare time.
He had modest success as a songwriter and opened his own record store in Detroit, but soon went bankrupt. On borrowed funds, he started his own record label in 1959.
Over the next decade, Berry Gordy shaped what is now called the “Motown Sound” and created dozens of R&B hits for predominantly black artists. The roster included Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and The Jackson 5 (with young Michael Jackson).
By the early 1979s, Motown Records was the most successful independent record label in the country. Berry Gordy moved to Los Angeles and tried his hand at other ventures, including movies that starred one of his favorite stars (with whom he had a six-year affair), Diana Ross: Lady Sings the Blues (1972) and Mahogany (1975).
Gordy sold Motown Records to MCA in 1988 for a reported $61 million. That same year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He released an autobiography in 1994 (To Be Loved), and took his story to Broadway in 2013 (Motown the Musical).
Motown Records had their first hit with “Money (That’s What I Want),” written by Berry Gordy himself.