What does it mean to say that Berry Gordy Jr. created Motown? It means that he is responsible for discovering some of the greatest talents in pop-music history and for many of their most memorable recordings. It means that above and beyond the contributions of individual artists, he forged the "Motown sound,” which still reverberates through pop music, film soundtracks, even television commercials; it’s titles and lyrics are a part of our vernacular.
Finally, it means that as a black American, Berry Gordy Jr. accomplished these things despite persistent and formidable barriers of race and class, rising to the ranks of entertainment-industry giants and to the leadership of the nation’s largest black-owned business enterprise.
Photography: Janet Macoska