Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson Honored as 2023 MusiCares Persons of the Year

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Motown Records founder Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson have been named 2023 MusiCares® Persons of the Year. The tribute was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Feb. 3, two nights before the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards®. The 2023 event was the 32nd annual Person of the Year benefit gala. The evening’s performers included Lionel Richie, Dionne Warwick, Sheryl Crow, John Legend, Michael McDonald, the Isley Brothers, Brandi Carlile, as well as the present lineups of Motown legends the Temptations and Four Tops.

Also performing: Jimmie Allen, Chloe X Halle, Lalah Hathaway, Samara Joy, PJ Morton, Mumford & Sons, Trombone Shorty, Valerie Simpson, Molly Tuttle, Rita Wilson and Sebastian Yatra. Fellow Detroit native, Greg Phillinganes, served as the evening’s Musical Director.

“[This] will be the first time we are honoring two legends together,” said Laura Segura, Executive Director of MusiCares, in the original Oct. 20 announcement. “With Gordy as the creator of the Motown Sound, and Robinson as his first writer and artist, their music, along with the many others who joined Motown, reached out across a racially divided country to transform popular music, creating a musical legacy like no other.”

The MusiCares Persons of the Year tribute ceremony was followed by a concert, featuring the above-named renowned artists paying tribute to Gordy and Robinson. The Recording Academy shared a brief clip of some of the performances and speeches. Expect an announcement of a future broadcast.

“I’m happy to be here with my best friend,” said Gordy, songwriter, producer and founder of Motown Records, from the podium.

Robinson said, “I have supported MusiCares for many years and know what great work they do for our creative community who need our help. Recently, when no one could tour, they were a lifeline to those in the touring industry for monetary help and mental health services. I am honored that they have chosen me and my best friend to share this beautiful honor and celebrate with you all together.”

Since 1991, money raised from this gala goes toward MusiCares programs and services that assist the music community, including physical and mental health, addiction recovery, preventative clinics, unforeseen personal emergencies, and disaster relief.

Gordy and Robinson join a prestigious list of recent MusiCares honorees including 2022’s Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Dolly Parton, and Tom Petty.

Related: Our recap of Petty’s great speech at his 2017 event

Berry Gordy Jr. in 1964

Gordy started out as a boxer and songwriter, and founded Motown in Detroit in 1959. In a house that came to be known as Hitsville USA, his unique leadership generated an atmosphere of freedom of expression, and Hitsville soon became a 24-hour hit-making factory. Gordy built Motown into a record company with the most impressive roster of artists in the history of pop music by discovering, building and nurturing the artistic talent of singers, writers, producers – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and the Commodores, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, the Temptations, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and many other music greats and is responsible for the “Motown Sound” that reached out across a racially divided, politically and socially charged country, to transform popular music.

In the 1960s, Gordy moved his artists into television, being among the first Black artists on shows like American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show.

Watch Smokey Robinson and the Miracles perform a hits medley on The Ed Sullivan Show on March 31, 1968

Robinson’s career spans over six decades of hits. He has received numerous awards including a GRAMMY, Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts Award, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Born and raised in Detroit, Robinson founded the Miracles while still in high school. The group was Gordy’s first vocal group and their single of Robinson and Gordy’s “Shop Around” became Motown’s first million seller. In the years following, Robinson continued to pen hits for the group including “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Ooo Baby Baby,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Going to a Go-Go,” “More Love,” “Tears of a Clown” (co-written with Stevie Wonder), and “I Second That Emotion.” In addition to writing hits for the Miracles, Robinson wrote and produced hits for other Motown artists, including the Temptations’ signature song, “My Girl,” their first No. 1 hit, inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame®. As a solo artist, he continued his tradition of chart-topping hits with “Just to See Her,” “Quiet Storm,” “Cruisin’,” and “Being with You,” among others.

Related: Is Smokey Robinson Underrated?

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