‘Motown’ family night culls celebrated reunion

Founder of Motown, Berry Gordy in Times Square in New York.
Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

“At Motown we called ourselves a family and we were – a big family. While it is impossible to list here the many people who helped create Motown with their love and passion, I personally want to thank them all. Their dedication and talent contribute to our success, as well as helped to inspire me to bring our story to Broadway. Motown was a dream that happened to come true, and it’s because of all of you. Thank you.” Berry Gordy, founder of Motown.

Although an opening night gala is usually the norm for any Broadway play, “Motown: The Musical” enjoyed early celebration with a pre-opening Family Night gathering that attracted music insiders who contributed to the legacy of the first successful, Black-owned record company.

Held one week before the official opening at the Lunt Fontanne Theater on April 14, a VIP assembly gathered to pay tribute to the author of “To Be Loved,” a book published in 1995 by Berry Gordy, the former, Motown Records president and founder.

Gordy invited employees of the Detroit record company who helped him build the legacy that is now an American institution and pride of a people who endured racism and personal sacrifice in order to maintain independence from exploitative major labels.

Former executives, reunited with talents to take bows and share the experience that began when George Romney governed the state of Michigan.

Miller London, one of the mentioned contributors in the musical reveled with the likes of former Dennis Edwards, lead singer of the Temptations, Martha Reeves and members of The Vandellas.

Despite the fact Gordy relinquished the company to MCA Records, staffers, and artists signed after his departure took the opportunity to share in the merriment which continued after a preview of the play and during an after-party held at the Edison Hotel.

Super-talent Stevie Wonder who started his career at the label when he was a mere pre-teen and remains at the label despite many, many departures from the legendary trailblazing company seemed the most prominent and dominant Motown name to attend. Wonder was barely mentioned in the musical revue. His arrival with his mother to Hitsville USA only emerged during the second half of the second half of the musical. Yielding to long, laborious tributes to Diana Ross of the Supremes, the production acknowledged, the songwriting team of Holland/Dozier/Holland and Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, but glossed over the magnanimous contribution of Wonder and the Jackson Five.

Although Wonder and Michael Jackson are probably the biggest money-makers for the label to date, they had to take a back-seat to a love-story that belabored the musical.

Ross seemed the focus of the stage memoir. And while alluring, and integral, detracted to the many overlooked talents who deserve praise.

Next month Wonder will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first hit “Fingertips II.”

However, he celebrated with Gordy, who retired after selling the company for $61 million in 1988.

Wonder remains a stalwart of Gordy’s dream and a key supporter of the label Gordy envisioned when he borrowed $800 from his family in order to start the Midwestern record label.

Also present for the family night gathering were: Dennis Edwards former lead-singer of the Temptations, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, of The Four Tops, Claudette Robinson and Pete Moore of the Miracles, film director Lee Daniels, singer Freda Payne and numerous record company executives who worked at the label when Jheryl Busby took the reins to preside at the label.

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