Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power

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Random House Publishing Group, Apr 2, 2009 - Music - 384 pages
In 1959, twenty-nine-year-old Berry Gordy, who had already given up on his dream to be a champion boxer, borrowed eight hundred dollars from his family and started a record company. A run-down bungalow sandwiched between a funeral home and a beauty shop in a poor Detroit neighborhood served as his headquarters. The building’s entrance was adorned with a large sign that improbably boasted “Hitsville U.S.A.” The kitchen served as the control room, the garage became the two-track studio, the living room was reserved for bookkeeping, and sales were handled in the dining room. Soon word spread that any youngster with a streak of talent should visit the only record label that Detroit had seen in years. The company’s name was Motown.
Motown cuts through decades of unsubstantiated rumors and speculation to tell the true behind-the-scenes narrative of America’s most exciting musical dynasty. It follows the company and its amazing roster of stars from the tumultuous growth years in Detroit, to the drama and intrigue of Hollywood in the 1970s, to resurgence in 2002.
Set against the civil rights movement, the decay of America’s northern industrial cities, and the social upheaval of the 1960s, Motown is a tale of the incredible entrepreneurship of Berry Gordy. But it also features the moving stories of kids from Detroit’s inner-city projects who achieved remarkable success and then, in many cases, found themselves fighting the demons that so often come with stardom—drugs, jealousy, sexual indulgence, greed, and uncontrollable ambition.
Motown features an extraordinary cast of characters, including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder. They are presented as they lived and worked: a clan of friends, lovers, competitors, and sometimes vicious foes. Motown reveals how the hopes and dreams of each affected the lives of the others and illustrates why this singular story is a made-in-America Greek tragedy, the rise and fall of a supremely talented yet completely dysfunctional extended family.
Based on numerous original interviews and extensive documentation, Motown benefits particularly from the thousands of pages of files crammed into the basement of downtown Detroit’s Wayne County Courthouse. Those court records provide the unofficial—and hitherto largely untold—history of Motown and its stars, since almost every relationship between departing singers, songwriters, producers, and the label ended up in litigation.
From its peaks in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Motown controlled the pop charts and its stars were sought after even by the Beatles, through the inexorable slide caused by their failure to handle their stardom, Motown is a riveting and troubling look inside a music label that provided the unofficial soundtrack to an entire generation.
 

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Motown: music, money, sex, and power

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Motown Records, "The Sound of Young America" during its 1960s heyday, was a throwback to the powerful Hollywood movie studios of the 1930s and 1940s, running all aspects of its artists' careers. In ... Read full review

Contents

InTRODUCTION
1
DETRoit DREAM in G
5
SLIDING INTo Music
12
MY CycLE of Success
21
Going Solo
27
SMokEY DREAMs
30
THE IMPosſoR of Success
34
HITsvi LLE
42
How MANYTHINK ITs A HIT?
114
THE DEFEcTor
126
THE GHost Tour
134
Due LING SoNGWRITERs
150
MoRE A FAMILY THAN A Business
158
ColorBlind
167
SkiPPING THE REvolution
172
CRAcks in THE WALL
179

Hon Esty AND RAw Soul
55
I CALL IT Music witH BLAck STARs
61
1o An AvALANCHE OF TALENT
67
HiTTING THE GRO ove
82
BATTLE OF THE STARs
98
A MAFIA PRODUCT FROM START To Finish
197
DonT You Trust Us?
204
SuitcAses of CASH
216
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Gerald Posner, a former Wall Street lawyer, is an award-winning author of seven books on subjects ranging from Nazi war criminals, to assassinations, to the lives and careers of politicians. A regular investigative contributor to NBC’s Today show and panelist on the History Channel’s HistoryCENTER, he lives in Manhattan and Miami with his wife, author Trisha Posner. More information is available at www.posner.com.

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