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.