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50 Years of Motown – So glad we found that Motown sound!

Motown record label

We at the Diff, as sons and daughters of Detroit, are especially proud of today's milestone. January 12th marks our very own Motown Records' 50th birthday. In those 50 years, Motown has provided the world with such music legends as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes and The Jackson 5.

On January 12th, 1959 – with an $800 loan from his family – Berry Gordy launched the first African-American-owned record label to reach cross-over success. From its humble beginnings in a house on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Motown went about the business of revolutionizing the music industry. That same year, Motown scored their first hit with "Money (That's What I Want)" by Barrett Strong, which made it to #2 on Billboard's R&B charts.

This was just the first of many hits to come. In the decade that followed, Motown proceeded to create a soundtrack for the dynamic 60s generation, defining R&B and Soul for pop music's inevitable racial integration. 

Since then, a long list of talented superstars has performed under the Motown label, as the business became a major player in the music industry. In the 70s Motown produced such classic talents as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five. The 80s saw hits with Lionel Richie, Rick James, and The Commodores .

Motown has morphed over the years, having sprouted subsidiaries and secondary labels, and eventually was bought by MCA, then Polygram, and is now a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. But the Motown sound still defines a mythical music moment, having played a pivotal role in the evolution of pop music.

By providing a venue to reflect the musical phenomena of the times, and distributing the resulting art around the world, Motown unleashed a wave of creative influences. With Motown as its vehicle, R&B and Soul seeped into the subtext of pop culture, creating a aural chain reaction that reverberates even today. Pop music as we know it – everything from Rock n' Roll and Hip Hop – has Motown to thank for shaping its sound.

So sometime this week, put on some Marvin or Aretha, shake your body and soul to the groove, and pay homage to Motown for making the Diff to pop music and the eclectic soup of innovation we call American culture.

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  1. growing up in Detroit, Motown was always part of the music we listened to. Even though it was most popular years before I was around, we still all loved it. We had a Motown Christmas record that I must have listened to 1,00 times. I remember clearly the 25th anniversary party where Michael Jackson moonwalked and pretty soon the whole nation was doing it. Or trying to do it at least. One of my favorite songs of all time is stll the Temptations doing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. That’s how Christmas is supposed to sound.

    Posted by: Clayton | January 13, 2009
  2. I’m from California but I grew up listening to Motown as well. You gotta love that sound.
    I was on amazon and I found out that for the 50th anniversary you can enter to win a vacation to the birthplace of Stax and Chess Records!! Chicago & Memphis.
    check it out i think it includes tours and entertainment.

    Posted by: motown01 | March 4, 2009

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Sunday, March 18, 2018