In January 1959, Berry Gordy borrowed $800 from his family and founded the Detroit-based record company that in less than a decade was to become the largest black-owned business in the United States. It also became one of the most productive and influential producers of popular music anywhere in the world.
The Story of Motown is the story of Berry Gordy’s triumph over powerful, established financial interests, entrenched popular taste, bigotry, and racism. By inventing a sound that appealed to whites as well as blacks, and that was immediately identifiable to an entire generation of listeners, Gordy demonstrated his genius as a producer; by the sheer force of his will, he demonstrated that a black man from the urban ghetto could aspire to and conquer the heights of traditional American business, including the movie business. Unfortunately, while doing all of this, he also found new ways to exploit his talented artists and eventually lost many of them to companies that paid them more. The Story of Motown is the story of the rise and fall of one of the most important cultural touchstones in American history.