Motown Founder Berry Gordy Jr. is Retiring

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Berry Gordy Jr. in 1964

The man who created and led the Motown Records empire, Berry Gordy Jr., has announced his retirement. The executive, who parlayed the company into the highest-earning African-American-owned business in the United States, stretching beyond music into film and television, made the announcement at a 60th anniversary event for the company Sunday night (Sept. 22) at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall.

“I have come full circle,” he told the audience there, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press. “It is only appropriate [to announce this] while here in Detroit, the city where my fairy tale happened with all of you. For years, I dreamed about it, talked about it, threatened it.”

Related: Motown artists covering Motown

The company was launched in 1959 when Gordy, who had co-written the Jackie Wilson hit “Reet Petite,” borrowed $800 from his family to start his own R&B imprint. His signings at the company’s peak included the Miracles (led by Smokey Robinson), Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Mary Wells, the Marvelettes, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Jackson Five (with Michael Jackson), Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and many others.

In 1972, Gordy moved the company to Los Angeles, where he branched into other areas of entertainment, beginning with the successful Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues, starring Diana Ross.

Says the Free Press report, “Although Gordy sold the record label in 1988 and later parceled off its song-publishing arm, the 89-year-old has remained very much in the business of Motown. In recent years, his creative pursuits have included a Broadway musical and a Showtime documentary about the company.”

The article further states, “Gordy’s announcement was the dramatic conclusion to a nearly 40-minute speech that found him frequently veering from his written remarks, share old anecdotes, interact with Motown colleagues in the audience, and get ‘sentimental.’”

Gordy will turn 90 in November.

Watch Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell sing their classic Motown duet, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

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