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New book digs into the business side of Motown’s worldwide success

Sep 29, 2016

 

You’ve surely heard many stories about Motown over the years. Stories of its stars or of the ambitious Berry Gordy Jr. using an $800 family loan to build one of the most impactful record labels anywhere.

But there’s a side to the Motown story we haven’t heard much about until now: the business side. The entrepreneurial spirit, the hard work and the hustle to “get the records played and the company paid.”

That’s the story told in the stunning new book Motown: The Sound of Young America, co-authored by Adam White and Berry Gordy’s right-hand man, Barney Ales.

The Temptations, The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Martha & the Vandellas and The Supremes at EMI Records in March 1965, for the UK launch of the Tamla-Motown label.
Credit Courtesy of the Paul Nixon Collection

White told us he wanted this book to tell “the stories that haven’t been told.”

“There’ve been many books written about Motown," he said. "Many stories have been told, but not these stories. And that’s what both Barney and I wanted to do, was to add to the sum of knowledge of Motown, to allow people to understand how it was as a business and how it evolved and how it changed people's lives, both the people who worked there and the people who listened to the music.”

Listen to our conversation above to hear White and Ales talk more about the history of Motown and how the book came together.

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