The 1960’s: Rise of Motown

By Mrpen

Detroit's brand of Soul emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s from Gospel and R&B performers such as Aretha Franklin, known as the "Queen of Soul" and generally regarded as one of the greatest vocalists of all time. Another highlight of Detroit's musical history was the success of Motown Records during the 1960s and early 1970s.The label was founded in the late 1950s by auto plant worker Berry Gordy Jr, and was originally known as Tamla Records. As Motown, it became home to some of the most popular recording acts in the world, including Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Edwin Starr, Little Willie John, The Contours and The Spinners Civil Rights & Rebellion: Concerned that mainstream America would reject African American popular music, Berry Gordy, Jr. released his early Motown Record albums without including photographs of the bands and performers. Nonetheless, acts like The Supremes and The Temptations proved to have crossover appeal, catapulting African American musicians into homes across the nation on American Bandstand and the Ed Sullivan Show. Although Motown’s development corresponded with the growing civil rights movement, the label was never a formal participant. Instead, Motown’s artists helped break down social barriers in American popular culture during the 1960s and 1970s. Respect – Originally recorded in 1965 as a ballad by artist Otis Redding, “Respect” became Aretha Franklin’s signature song after her powerhouse recording two years later. Franklin’s version, which added the famous R-E-S-P-E-C-T spelling in the chorus, became a landmark song of the feminism movement in America. The song would earn Franklin two Grammy’s and is number five on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the top songs of all time. Dancing in the Street - Originally conceived as a danceable party song, “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas became known as an anthem of civil unrest when inner-city riots broke out in Detroit and other American cities during the mid-to late 1960s. Rioters cited the song as a ‘call to action’, inviting them to take to the streets in protest. The song peaked at number two on the Billboard pop chart and in 2006 was preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry In 1965 Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels had a national top 10 hit with "Jenny Take A Ride!" and then again the following year in 1966 with "Devil With A Blue Dress On"/"Good Golly, Miss Molly". Finally, in 1967, Detroit blues-rock outfit the Woolies had a regional smash hit with the Bo Diddley song "Who Do You Love?" In the late 1960s, well-known high-energy rock bands emerged from Detroit - the MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges. These bands laid the groundwork for the future punk and hard rock movements in the late 1970s