Detroit has always been known for its music scene. We’ve been on the forefront of many musical breakthroughs…techno, garage-rock, and most notably: Motown. Motown is an American record company, founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. on January 12, 1959 in Detroit. It was known then as Tamla Records, but on April 14, 1960, they officially became “Motown Record Corporation.”
Motown played an important role in the racial integration of popular music. In the 1960s, Motown Records was the most successful with its own “Motown Sound,” which is a style of soul music with a distinct pop influence. So, for this week’s playlist, we thought we’d dedicate it to some of Motown’s best and most influential artists and groups…READ MORE: Hispanic Heritage Month: Mexicantown Through Artist Eyes
Check them out!
The Supremes – “Where Did Our Love Go”
The Supremes were one of the premier acts of Motown Records during the 1960s – they were originally founded as “The Primettes” in Detroit in 1959. They’re considered one of America’s most successful vocal groups, with 12 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 – and at their peak, they even rivaled The Beatles! Hear them perform live here!
Diana Ross – “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”
Born and raised in Detroit, Diana Ross may be one of the biggest names to come out of Motown. She rose to fame with The Supremes, but has made a notable name for herself all on her own as well. With 70 hit singles, Diana Ross has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and is considered the most successful female music artist in history. Check her out here!
Eddie Holland – “Because I Love Her”
Also born and raised in Detroit, Eddie Holland is a lesser-known singer, songwriter, and record producer from Motown. He recorded a few minor hit singles, before moving to working behind the scenes because of stage fright. He’s worked with Martha and the Vandellas, The Supremes, The Four Tops, among others, and has written or co-written 80 hits in the UK and 143 in the US between them all. Hear him here!
Marv Johnson – “Come To Me”
Marv Johnson began his career singing with a doo-wop group called the Serenaders in the mid-1950s. He was discovered by Berry Gordy of Motown Records while performing at a carnival, Berry was impressed with his talents as a singer, songwriter and a pianist. His single “Come To Me” was the label’s first single in May of 1959. Hear it here!
Martha and the Vandellas – “Then He Kissed Me”READ MORE: United Airlines Facing Record $1.9 Million Fine For Extended Delays
Martha and the Vandellas found fame easily throughout the 1960s with a string of hits with Motown Records. Originally, the group was founded by three friends, Annette Beard, Rosalind Ashford, and Gloria Williams. It wasn’t long after that Martha Reeves joined and quickly moved up to lead vocalist, after Gloria Williams left in 1962. Hear them perform here!
The Miracles – “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me”
Started in 1955 by Smokey Robinson, Warren “Pete” Moore, and Ronnie White, the group originally went by “Five Chimes” then changing to the “Matadors” two years later. It was in 1958 that the group finally decided on The Miracles. By 1960, they had established themselves as one of Motown’s top acts, and are considered today as Motown’s “Soul super-group.” Hear them here!
The Originals – “Baby, I’m For Real”
The Originals were often considered “Motown’s best-kept secret.” They were a successful Motown R&B and soul group in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They received their biggest success under the guidance of Marvin Gaye, who co-wrote and produced two of the group’s biggest singles, “Baby, I’m For Real” and “The Bells.” Hear “Baby, I’m For Real” here!
The Temptations – “My Girl”
Who doesn’t know the tune “My Girl”? You’re singing that in your head now, aren’t you? The Temptations started off with five male vocalists and dancers in 1960 in Detroit, originally under the name “The Elgins.” They have sold tens of millions of albums worldwide today, making them one of the most successful groups in music history. And as of 2014, The Temptations still continue to perform, with one living original member, Otis Williams, still in the line-up. Hear “My Girl” here!
Stevie Wonder – “A Place In The Sun”
Did you know that Stevie’s real name is Stevland Morris? Stevland “Stevie Wonder” Morris was born in Saginaw, Michigan, and raised just outside of Detroit. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, and was often considered a child prodigy for his musical talents. He’s been blind since shortly after his birth. He has recorded more than 30 US Top Ten Hits and has received 22 Grammy Awards. Check out more from him here!
Smokey Robinson – “One Heartbeat”
The founder and front man for the Motown group The Miracles, Smokey Robinson is an R&B and pop singer-songwriter, record producer, and former record executive. He led the group The Miracles from 1955 to 1972…when he announced he would retire and focus on his role as Motown’s vice president. However, he returned to the music industry a year later as a solo artist, releasing many Top Ten hits and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Watch the official music video for “One Heartbeat” here!MORE NEWS: Ford Recalls Mustang Mach-E For Windshield, Sunroof Issues
Who is your favorite Motown artist?