I was born within spitting distance of Hitsville U.S.A., the Motown Museum.
My dad was a Detroit police officer until he figured out that the bar owners on his beat were making a whole lot more money. So he opened up Homer’s Bar on Grand River Avenue in the Motor City. When other girls my age were swooning over the Beatles, I was tuned into WKNR, Keener 13, for Motown Mondays. I might be a white girl, but I have soul in my heart.
That is why I am so excited that “Motown the Musical” is coming to Chrysler Hall from April 4 – 9.
I had a three-foot tall jukebox in my bedroom. My dad would bring home old 45’s from the bar. I loved Little Stevie Wonder, who was my age and became a huge Motown star in 1963 with “Fingertips.”
I would lip sync and dance to every hit by the Supremes. I saw Gladys Knight and the Pips, Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops and all the Motown stars live at the Michigan State Fair held every year in Detroit. They were all local kids who made it big. They became stars because of the ambition and talent of the founder of Motown Records, Berry Gordy Jr.
“Motown the Musical” is based on Berry Gordy’s autobiography, To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown. It is the story of Berry Gordy Jr. who was born in Detroit. He worked on the assembly line at Lincoln – Mercury, but dreamed of a place where he could develop the talent he saw all around him. He borrowed $800 from his family and started Motown Records in 1959 in an old house on West Grand Boulevard. He converted the garage into Studio A and moved his family upstairs.
“Motown the Musical” uses Berry Gordy’s story to showcase over 60 Motown classics from Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and more. There are also four new Motown songs written for “Motown the Musical” by Berry Gordy. I will be in Motown heaven.
I spoke to Allen Rawls, CEO of the Motown Museum, housed in the original Hitsville U.S.A. on West Grand Boulevard. The Museum greets over 70,000 visitors a year from all over the world. Hitsville is “an inspiration to the grandparents who grew up with the music, their children who listened to the music, and the current generation, who take the music, turn it on it’s head and make something new from it,” Rawls told me.
I asked Mr. Rawls why these hits from the 60’s and 70’s were still so popular.
“The music is joyful,” he said. “There is a familiarity. You can understand the lyrics, and they make people happy.”
Hitsville is very popular with school groups and family reunions. The artists of Motown proved that “you don’t necessarily need to go to Julliard to make it big in the music industry,” Rawls said.
Berry Gordy Jr. found the talent, wrote many of the songs, and produced the hits. Motown Records was the first African-American owned record label to reach national acclaim. In 1968, Motown had 5 out of 10 top hits on the Billboard Hot 100.
This is music and dance to make you smile, to soothe your soul, to share with people you love. Come to Chrysler Hall and sing along.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to here.