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Commercial success[edit]

I removed

was the first style of African-American music to have major commercial success in the white mass market

Because it isn't true. Some of the first recording stars in the US were classic (black) female blues singer, and styles of African-American music to have major commercial success before Motown include swing, ragtime, jazz and rock and roll. ________________________________________________________________________________

I don't think that Billie Holliday (assuming that's who you referring to by 'classic (black) female blues singer') the jazz movement that emerged from Harlem, and a handful of other working, black recording artists can be construed as 'a major commercial success', especially since a great deal of the artists to whom you seem to be alluding received very little of the recognition in their own time that they have been lavished with after the fact of their deaths. Deserved attention, but, sadly, mostly post-mortem.

I assert that Motown was, indeed, black written, produced and performed music's first major commercial breakthrough in America for the following reasons:

  • 1): The emergent popularity of Top 40 Radio, (which had previously been almost exclusively the domain of white artists) and the marketing channels it afforded black artists in that era.
  • 2): The baby boomer market's legendary disposable income and the popularity of 45 R.P.M. singles, jukboxes and other income streams and promotional opportunities -that were previously only marginal- coming to the fore.
  • 3): The packaging of Motown artists in a manner that parents of Caucasian boomers found to be "acceptable"
  • 4): Swing and rock and roll (especially in the 1950's in America) had it's greatest commercial successes when played by white artists. Witness Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, Artie Shaw, Pat Boone, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc... Jazz and ragtime, while having a larger number of successful black artists working in those styles, have never gotten close to the popularity of Motown whatsoever as a commercial entity, and therefore have had a somewhat lesser impact on white popular culture, overall.

If you couple that with the fact that Motown, as a genre was SOLELY the domain of black artists and producers, I think my statement is quite true.

Dollar for dollar, this was black music's come-up in white America, IMHO.

In as much as it's not a terribly critical piece of data about that genre of music, I have decided to leave your deletion as-is, despite the fact that I flatly disagree with you.

Thank you. Bunnerabb

I think the statement wasn't very precise, then -- first style of African-American music doesn't denote anything to do with the race of the performers. Bill Haley, for example, played an African-American style of music to major commercial acclaim. There should be a discussion in the article of the points you bring up, but it's more complicated than Motown being the first style to gain commercial success. How about encyclopedifying your above comments and placing them in the article? Ultimately, it is not the job of Wikipedia to tell the reader that Motown was or was not the first major mainstream black music, but to present the reasons why some people feel it was so, and the reasons why others feel it was not.
Whether or not it is true depends a lot on how you want to define some terms. The first recording stars in the country were people like Mamie Smith (classic female blues needs an article, as Billy Holiday was not part of it -- [] has a reasonable article on it, if you want to know more). Certainly, by 1960s standards, Mamie Smith was a cult act at best but it all depends on how you define major and mainstream and success... Motown was by far the most mainstream genre of music played by African Americans as of the period in time, but for their own period, there were black ragtime and jazz performers who made as much money performing as most any musician in the country. The difference is that pop music (i.e. Top 40 radio, as you mention above) was only a nascent phenomenon until the 50s and didn't really hit its stride until the 60s -- we shouldn't be defining 1920s success by 1960s standards. Tuf-Kat 18:25, Jan 19, 2004 (UTC)


Good points, and well taken.

However, my statement was: 'The first style of African-American music to have major commercial success in the white mass market', and that's true. While the whole recording industry was, at best, nascent during the eras preceeding the '50s and early '60s, there was an established paradigm with stars and also rans. Much like now. Granted.

The majority of records that sold in that era -that were recorded by black artists- were purchased by African-American buyers, though. I did say "Major commercial success in the white mass market." For the most part, black music as a popular form and a marketable commodity only came to the attention of white listeners in America after being recorded by white artists and engineers. There were pioneers as standards changed such as Nat King Cole, but a lot of this was very "safe" music and palatable to white audiences in both form and conetent. It was basically easy listening. Records by black artists with any sort of ebulliance or a strong backbeat were considered "race music" and were still somewhat of a novelty in white American households until Motown combined elegance and energy and created "The Sound of Young America®".

I'm quite aware of POV aspects of articles and I certainly do not want to get into that. I simply believe, none the less, the above-mentioned traits of this particular genre of popular music were a very important aspect of it's whole oeuvre.

Your points are well taken, however, and I appreciate your useful input.

(The drummer with who I am working in the recording of a CD release was signed to the Motown label for six years. Perhaps he can shed some light on the yin and yang of the genre and the label, if I ask him nicely.)  : )

Thank you again. Bunnerabb

Well, feel free to expand or change it, but I've gone ahead and added the following to the first paragraph: Tuf-Kat
While there were popular African American musicians prior to the 1960s, including Mamie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald and Chuck Berry, Motown was the most consistently chart-topping genre until perhaps hip hop. In contrast to previous genres of black popular music, Motown soul used African American performers instead of grooming white musicians for crossover fame. It was also the first genre of African American popular music to move beyond simple lyricisms into the realm of socio-political topics, allowing for a wide range of African American viewpoints to be expressed in song.
On second reading, the last sentence ignores Motown Records' unwillingness to expand the possibilities of soul music. I would fix it now, but I've got to go to bed. Tuf-Kat 02:09, Jan 20, 2004 (UTC)

Motown records or Motown, IL?[edit]

Can someone provide more info about Motown Records ? Like is it a recording company ? Is Motown name of a place as well ? Jay 21:07, 9 Jul 2004 (UTC)

"Motown" is a nickname for Detroit, Michigan, derived from "motor town." --b. Touch 22:40, 10 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Motown records or Motown sound?[edit]

I'm really not sure about the use of "Motown" as a generic term. To my mind, Motown music means music released on Motown Records, and while that forms part of northern soul, it's not synonymous with it. Bonalaw 11:06, 11 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Actually, I've removed Northern Soul as a synonym and put it in a "see also" at the bottom of the article. The whole thing needs to be put more in the context of the record label itself, there's very little that I would delete from the article but it needs quite a bit added, particularly about the founding of the company and what happened with it in the 1970s and beyond. Bonalaw 11:13, 11 Aug 2004 (UTC)

The Motown sound, I do believe, refers not to the genre or style created and popularized by Motown records, but rather to the actual "sound" of the music created by low quality equipment and innovative production techniques (possibly including arrangments, insofar as song arrangement is a production concern). Hyacinth 21:21, 11 Aug 2004 (UTC)

It's a combination of the two. The "Motown Sound" is primarily its own subgenre of music; essentially representing what could be labeled Detroit soul because, true indeed, more labels than Motown utilized the sound. There are certain characteristics to the way Motown records are written and what instruments are used; the production and arrangment is also, as you alluded to, characteristic of the "Motown Sound".
Sure, no problem with the characteristic sound of Motown being covered in the aticle but at the moment that seems to be the only aspect that's covered. Bonalaw 09:41, 12 Aug 2004 (UTC)

I removed the text and picture refering to the Tom Clay article. The information has next to nothing to do with a general overview of the label. --b. Touch 20:00, 12 Nov 2004 (UTC)

'Bold text'Picture of Hitsville USA Building That picture has been digitally altered. I was at this location less than two weeks ago and there is no bulding to the left as in the picture. That building burnt down in the early 70's and the lot is now vacant.

Merge "Motown Sound" here?[edit]

I am proposing that the Motown Sound article be merged into this one. My reasoning is as follows:

  • "Motown Sound" as a "style of soul music" is an awfully amorphous term. I don't think it's a legitimate "style", like "rockabilly" or "free jazz". Motown's sound changed throughout the 60s and 70s, and multiple "styles" of soul might be heard even with the same album.
  • The Motown Sound article doesn't do a particularly good job of defining/describing it, and I suspect that the definition can't be improved much. It talks about the use of a tambourine, etc. Does that mean that classic Motown recordings which DON'T use a tambourine are not part of the Motown sound? For example, does the Motown Sound include Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", or the synth-driven songs by Stevie Wonder in the 1970s? Or if Motown Records releases a 2007 album by a new artist, would that be part of the "Motown sound"?
  • My take is that "Motown Sound" isn't so much a distinct style of music as it is a marketing term coined by Motown Records that was picked up by the media and entered the vernacular. I don't think you can talk much about the "sound" apart from the record label and the people involved with it (the Funk Brothers, Holland-Dozier-Holland, etc), so it can probably be covered adequately by the "Motown Records" article. Plus, I don't think Wikipedia should be in the business of devoting a separate article to a marketing slogan.
  • Furthermore, as per WP:MM, it's a good idea to merge "two or more pages on related subjects that have a large overlap. Wikipedia is not a dictionary; there does not need to be a separate entry for every concept in the universe." Vandelay 18:23, 4 January 2007 (UTC)
Wait a minute, you're going to just remove my "merge" proposal after three days without even discussing it or without waiting to find out what others think? Vandelay 00:22, 7 January 2007 (UTC)
The articles don't necessarily overlap. Motown Records is a long article about a record label. Motown Sound is a moderate-length article about a subgenre of R&B/soul music that came out of that label, and transcended it to the point that other musicians used the sound as well. There is no need to merge, especially if we have hundreds of articles on The Beatles and articles on every made-up subgenre of heavy metal music. I've learned that WP:MM doesn't apply to anything championed by white teenaged males.
The Motown Sound refers only to the distinct style of music the company made during the mid to late 1960s, from about 1963 to about 1971. It is indeed a distinct style of soul music, and perfectly recognizable. Most musicologists identify it as a legitimate style. The key is that outside performers (Jerry Butler, pre-Motown Edwin Starr, The Foundations) recorded in the style, and its influence is evident in many performers' work, in particular The Beatles.
Motown Sound isn't a complete article on the style, but a complete one could be written. It's primarily waiting for someone who is literate in musical terms to write it. No, it doesn't rely upon the use of a tambourine. No, What's Going On is not recorded in the "Motown Sound" style (which was the entire point of the LP), nor were Stevie Wonder's post-1972 recordings. No, nothing Motown Records makes in 2007 represents the Motown Sound in anyway; the company primarily exists in name only, as this article explains. I suppose a better idea would be to move the article to Detroit soul (which isn't a "trademarked slogan"), and revise it there. But who's going to write it? --FuriousFreddy 02:12, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

Don't overlook MoWest Records![edit]

MoWest Records was also a subsidiary of Motown that should be discussed. Compared to other subsidiaries, it didn't seem like much, but Tom Clay had a million-seller on it, and several well-known acts (including The Four Seasons) had records with the MoWest label. B.Wind 07:02, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

It's...already mentione in the article as part of the long list of Motown subsidiaries. --FuriousFreddy 00:17, 25 May 2007 (UTC)

Fair use rationale for Image:Mary-wells-beat-punch.jpg[edit]

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Please go to the image description page and edit it to include a fair use rationale. Using one of the templates at Wikipedia:Fair use rationale guideline is an easy way to insure that your image is in compliance with Wikipedia policy, but remember that you must complete the template. Do not simply insert a blank template on an image page.

If there is other other fair use media, consider checking that you have specified the fair use rationale on the other images used on this page. Note that any fair use images uploaded after 4 May, 2006, and lacking such an explanation will be deleted one week after they have been uploaded, as described on criteria for speedy deletion. If you have any questions please ask them at the Media copyright questions page. Thank you.BetacommandBot 04:47, 6 June 2007 (UTC)


I see the VIP article has been merged into this one. Fair enough, but it had a rather nice picture of the label: I wonder why that wasn't retained. Rothorpe 20:34, 8 August 2007 (UTC)

Merge proposal[edit]

I suggest that Motown Sound be merged into Motown Records. The Motown Sound article seems to duplicate topics that are already in the Motown Records article, and the Motown Sound article only has one footnote.Spylab (talk) 18:32, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

No. Look above. We've already been over this. Add more footnotes to Motown Sound (that's not a valid reason for merging), research it and expand it, but there is no reason to merge it. --FuriousFreddy (talk) 17:42, 11 February 2008


There is plenty of reason to merge it, especially since most of the information on the Motown Sound article already appears in the Motown Records article. It is clear that there is not enough cited information for the Motown Sound article to stand on its own. Spylab (talk) 17:48, 11 February 2008 (UTC)

It's clear to you. The "Motown Sound" defines a certain type of music that was emulated by other labels and artists outsideo f Motown Records. They're two legitimate separate topics. Merge them if you want to, it'll be one less black-related article on this site. --FuriousFreddy (talk) 18:52, 17 February 2008 (UTC)
Actually, after seeing how you reduced the rest of the page, I don't suppose it would hurt to merge the articles. --FuriousFreddy (talk) 22:02, 10 March 2008 (UTC)

Urban legends or not[edit]

Can someone enlighten me ? Is it true {validated} or myth that R. Dean Taylor was the first white male singer to be signed by Motown; that Kiki Dee was the first white female to be equally signed; and/or that Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers‎ were the first UK group to be similarly signed up ? Thank you.

Derek R Bullamore (talk) 00:49, 11 May 2008 (UTC)

All three are nonsense, I'm afraid. The first white male singer on Motown was WXYZ Radio DJ Joel Sebastian in 1961; the first white female singer on Motown was Debbie Dean who also made her debut in 1961, almost ten years before Kiki Dee's solitary Motown release. Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers weren't signed up to Motown at all; Bennett went on to be in Toe Fat, some of whose records were licensed by Motown for release on the Rare Earth subsidiary in 1970; I don't know of any British bands being "signed up" to Motown, but the first British band to have a record licensed to Motown for release in the US were the Pretty Things, again on Rare Earth, in 1969. (talk) 22:45, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

Motown attacked![edit]

I noticed that someone came in and added spam to the article,read it and please return it to normal and I move to make motown and those associated with it only editable to those with wikipedia accounts and if someone from wiki is doing it ban them! Saimaroimaru 2008 (talk) 21:09, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

Post-1967 success[edit]

I believe the following statement should be revised: "After Holland-Dozier-Holland left the label in 1967 over royalty payment disputes, the quality of the Motown output began to decline, as well as the frequency with which its artists scored #1 hits." The first part of this statement is a subjective opinion that is arguable. The second part is not supported by the facts as recorded at Wikipedia's own list of Motown #1 hits. ( According to that list, 1970 rather than some year while HDH were at Motown ranks as the year that Motwon scored the most number one songs (On the Billboard Hot 100). Furthermore in the seven years prior to 1967, Motown had 16 number 1 hits, but in the seven years after that (1968-1974), Motown had a total of 20 number one hits. So frankly this claim seems patently false according to the data.

I think it is a questionable assertion to say that quality declined at Motown when HDH left. Considering the artistic achievements of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Norman Whitfield during the seventies, I would argue that Motown matured artistically after their departure rather than atrophied. Clearly the departure of HDH made a big impact on the output of artists like the Supremes and the Four Tops, but I believe this article attributes too much of Motown's overall success to this songwriting and production team.

Perhaps because of this myopia, this article does not do justice to the music output of Motown past 1967. It seems to focus too much on the move to California and into TV and film. This was important, but it's not like the music stopped at that point. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Norman Whitfield all achieved much more artistically in this period of time then one would gather from this history. There was clearly a point when the chart success of Motown waned, and that needs to be explored, but I don't think one can tie it to an event in 1967. I think it is more reasonable to look at what happened during the seventies. Perhaps it had to do with the advent of FM radio (Look at the chart success before and after Motown began issuing commercial singles in stereo). Perhaps it had to do with the rise and fall of disco music. Maybe it was something else, but I'm pretty sure that not even Holland, Dozier, or Holland would claim that their departure was the demise of Motown Records. (and to be fair this article does not make that claim exactly, but a casual reader could get that impression.) Jwhester (talk) 17:29, 15 November 2008 (UTC)

I agree that staement is a opnion, don't forget if you listen to the music, you will notice that the "motown sound" changed from pop- soul to a more closer sound tha accomdated soul singers, thus Gladys Knight rise to fame.The music became more of Psychadleic than pop, and the result of the fans, we see on the charts.We can't say its a decline at all, but more of a music change.Rember by this time Berry had more groups to keep hits going for.Saimaroimaru 2008 (talk) 15:47, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

yo son i am blood[edit]

yo moms was crippin in this hood the 90's —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:09, 25 January 2009 (UTC)

This is the English language Wikipedia. Please write in English.

With language like that it is no wonder that Motown is now Crackhotown! (talk) 23:10, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

History of your neighborhoods[edit]

I have been living this bloods/crips motown for nine years —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:11, 25 January 2009 (UTC)

This is the English language Wikipedia. Please write in English.

Motown Singers[edit]

Singers that sang for the company include = The Supreams, Smokey Robinson , Jackson 5 , Areatha Franklin and Stevie Wonder and many more. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:36, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

Motown Founding Inaccurately Listed in Summary[edit]

This article clearly states that Motown was founded April 14, 1960.

Founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. on January 12, 1959 as Tamla Records, the company was incorporated as Motown Record Corporation on April 14, 1960.[1]

So, why does the summary box say it was founded January 12, 1959? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:23, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

In a sense, both are correct - a result of confusion, not helped by the article calling itself "Motown Records". Berry Gordy's first label, Tamla Records, began in January 1959, Motown Records (the label) later that year, and then the "parent" company, Motown Record Corporation (as distinct from Motown Records) was incorporated in April 1960. (talk) 22:48, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

Article title[edit]

"Motown Records" ≠ "Motown Record Corporation". The first one was Berry Gordy's second record label, started in August 1959; the latter was the company incorporated in April 1960, also confusingly named Motown, which contained the sub-labels Tamla Records, Motown Records, Gordy Records, Soul Records, VIP Records, etc etc etc. The first paragraph is flat out wrong when it says Motown Records was founded as Tamla Records; they remained quite separate divisions of the same company, Motown Record Corporation, until the latter merged all its different operations into one label in the mid-1980s.

I'd suggest that since all the Motown sub-label articles have long since been merged into this one (which I believe to be the wrong decision, but there we go), this article should be titled "Motown" and have "Motown Records" as a redirect here, rather than the other way round. Otherwise, we're stuck with an article erroneously titled after one of the Motown group of labels, rather than the group itself - i.e. it's named entirely the wrong thing. Opinions, anyone? (talk) 22:23, 15 October 2009 (UTC)

I agree. And the introduction should be rewritten if the above is correct (and I believe it is). Rothorpe (talk) 00:28, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
I have reordered the opening accordingly; for some reason the Move option isn't available any more, so I can't alter the article title to simple 'Motown'. Rothorpe (talk) 23:16, 17 November 2009 (UTC) - presumably because of the redirect.
I agree with this move proposal, but I believe it requires some administrative action to be accomplished in order to preserve the page histories and be in compliance with the licensing requirements for contributions (see the somewhat related essay at WP:MAD). My understanding is that the following sequence of moves and deletes would need to be accomplished:
  1. Create Mowtown (temp for move) to hold Motown for the move
  2. Move Motown to Motown (temp for move) along with its talk page
  3. Delete Motown and Talk:Motown creating space for a "Move over Redirect" (requires admin)
  4. Move Motown Records to Motown along with its talk page, into space created by previous delete
  5. Delete Motown Records and Talk:Motown Records creating space for a "Move over Redirect" (redirects created by previous move, requires admin)
  6. Move Motown (temp for move) to Motown Records along with its talk page, into space created by previous delete
  7. Delete Motown (temp for move) and its talk page, completing the shuffle (requires admin)
I would suggest that if you know an admin who will help with this move sequence that it be done, the evidence obviously supports it. Sswonk (talk) 15:12, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
I've asked an admin. Rothorpe (talk) 19:47, 21 November 2009 (UTC)


I've changed the lead paragraph back to the way it was before someone changed it on 5th July. "Motown Records" is not the same thing as the Motown Record Corporation, nor was Motown Records "founded as Tamla Records". The article was moved from Motown Records to Motown for this very reason, hopefully someone will read the above move rationale before trying to change it again. (talk) 13:59, 15 July 2010 (UTC)

Motown Singles COllections.[edit]

These articles seriously need improvement:

Can someone help? MaJic Talk 2 Me. I'll Listen. 00:25, 20 July 2010 (UTC)

Foundation of Motown: exact date?[edit]

Hi everyone. From the article, we learn that: a. "Motown was (...) incorporated (...) on April 14, 1960." and b. "Gordy founded a second label, Motown Records, in September 1960." Could anyone clarify this please? Thanks! --SuburbanKnight (talk) 13:21, 15 September 2010 (UTC)

The answer's already a few posts above yours. What we now call "Motown" as an entity (and the subject of the article) came into being with the foundation of Tamla Records in January 1959. Motown Records, the label, was founded in September 1959 (not 1960). The Motown Record Corporation - the umbrella organisation covering Tamla Records, Motown Records, and later Gordy Records, VIP Records, Soul Records etc etc - was incorporated in April 1960. You pays yer money, you takes yer choice. (talk) 22:45, 21 September 2010 (UTC)

No template?[edit]

Eh, there is no template {{Motown}}? -DePiep (talk) 21:21, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

Why is this article titled simply 'Motown,' as opposed to 'Motown Records?'[edit]

Motown Records is the official name of the company, so why is this article simple titled Motown? Clarification please. - The Real One Returns (talk) 12:28, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

See this. STATic message me! 14:01, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

Trouble archiving links on the article[edit]

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re: article section: Relaunch: 2011–present[edit]

the first line reads thus, "As of summer of 2011" my summer is nov-jan. this should have a more precise date included.

Pga1965 (talk) 06:28, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

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