Motowns Greatest Hits
Motown is an American record company. The record company was founded by Berry Gordy Jr. as Tamla Records on January 12, 1959, and was incorporated as Motown Record Corporation on April 14, 1960, in Detroit, Michigan. The name, a portmanteau of motor and town, has also become a nickname for Detroit. Motown played an important role in the racial integration of popular music as an African American-owned record label that achieved significant crossover success.
In the 1960s, Motown and its subsidiary labels (including Tamla Motown, the brand used outside the US) were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as the Motown Sound, a style of soul music with a distinct pop influence.
During the 1960s, Motown achieved spectacular success for a small record company: 79 records in the Top Ten of the Billboard Hot 100 record chart between 1960 and 1969. Following the events of the Detroit Riots of 1967, and the loss of key songwriting/production team Holland-Dozier-Holland the same year over pay disputes, Gordy began relocating Motown to Los Angeles. The move was completed in 1972 and Motown expanded into television and film production, remaining an independent company until June 28, 1994. The company was then sold to MCA Inc. Motown was later sold to PolyGram in 1994, before being sold again to MCA Records' successor, Universal Music Group, when it acquired PolyGram in 1999. Motown spent much of the 2000s as a part of the Universal Music subsidiaries Universal Motown, Universal Motown Republic Group, and headquartered in New York City. From 2011 to 2014, Motown was a part of The Island Def Jam Music Group division of Universal Music.
On April 1, 2014, Universal Music Group announced the dissolution of Island Def Jam; subsequently Motown relocated back to Los Angeles to operate under the Capitol Music Group. It now operates out of the landmark Capitol Tower. For many decades, Motown was the highest-earning African American business in the United States. Motown Records was inducted into Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame class of 2018 on June 3, 2018 at the Charles H. Wright Museum. Motown legend Martha Reeves received the award for Motown Records. Berry Gordy got his start as a songwriter for local Detroit acts such as Jackie Wilson and the Matadors.
Wilson's single "Lonely Teardrops", written by Gordy, became a huge success, but Gordy did not feel he made as much money as he deserved from this and other singles he wrote for Wilson. He realized that the more lucrative end of the business was in producing records and owning the publishing. In 1959, Billy Davis and Berry Gordy's sisters Gwen and Anna started Anna Records. Davis and Gwen Gordy wanted Berry to be the company president, but Berry wanted to strike out on his own.
On January 12, 1959, he started Tamla Records, with an $800 loan from his family and royalties earned writing for Jackie Wilson. Gordy originally wanted to name the label Tammy Records, after the hit song popularized by Debbie Reynolds from the 1957 film Tammy and the Bachelor, in which Reynolds also starred. When he found the name was already in use, Berry decided on Tamla instead. Tamla's first release, in the Detroit area, was Marv Johnson's "Come to Me" in 1959 (released nationally on United Artists).
Its first hit was Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" (1959), which made it to number 2 on the Billboard R&B charts (released nationally on Anna Records). Gordy's first signed act was the Matadors, who immediately changed their name to the Miracles. (They were not the Matadors who recorded for Sue.) Their first release, "Got a Job", was an answer record to the Silhouettes' "Get a Job" (issued on George Goldner's End Records). The Miracles' first, minor hit was their fourth single, 1959's "Bad Girl", released in Detroit as the debut record on the Motown imprint, and nationally on the Chess label. (Most early Motown singles were released through other labels, such as End, Fury, Gone and Chess.)
Miracles lead singer William "Smokey" Robinson became the vice president of the company (and later named his daughter "Tamla" and his son "Berry"). Several of Gordy's family members, including his father Berry Sr., brothers Robert and George, and sister Esther, were given key roles in the company. By the middle of the decade, Gwen and Anna Gordy had joined the label in administrative positions as well.