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Eastern Michigan University Archives

Update 2:49 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett spoke with Motown Museum CEO Audley Smith.

Smith said Edwards was instrumental in starting Motown. From Hulett's report:

Edwards served as the label’s vice president, its corporate secretary, and its director of international operations.

But Motown Museum CEO Audley Smith says even before that, she established a "savings club" for her family’s entrepreneurial pursuits.

"And that fund was where Berry Gordy got the first $800 to start his record company," said Smith.

Smith also said that Edwards was a mother figure to many of the Motown artists who became stars.

"She felt that by sharing her love and her wisdom and her guidance and her time and her resources and her tough love, that she could make a difference in the lives of young people," said Smith.

Hulett reports that Edwards stayed in Detroit after her brother moved the Motown label to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. She started the Motown Museum in 1985, which sees 60,000 visitors a year.

1:05 p.m.

Esther Gordy Edwards, the elder sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr., died last night at the age of 91.

From the Associated Press.

The Motown Museum made the announcement Thursday. The museum, which Edwards founded, says she died Wednesday night in Detroit surrounded by family and friends. Edwards was a Motown executive for nearly three decades.

She served as senior vice president, corporate secretary and director of Motown International Operations, where she was charged with exposing the famed "Motown sound" to international
audiences.

Berry Gordy Jr. released a statement today saying his sister was "was the most educated in our family and was the go-to person for wisdom in business." Berry Gordy Jr. praised her for preserving Motown's history after he sold the company 1988:

Esther turned the so-called trash left behind after I sold the company in 1988 into a phenomenal world-class monument where Hitsville started—The Motown Museum.She preserved Motown memorabilia before it was memorabilia, collecting our history long before we knew we were making it. She nurtured and held it together through the years, protecting the Motown legacy for generations to come—which is only one of the reasons people all over the world will remember and celebrate Esther Gordy Edwards. Despite my sorrow, I will proudly continue to honor and celebrate her. She will always be my big sister and she will forever live in my heart.

Billboard Magazine writes that this is the second loss Motown has suffered this week "following the death Tuesday of legendary Ashford & Simpson songwriter, Nick Ashford."

The Detroit African American History project writes that Esther Gordy Edwards was born in Oconee, Georgia and moved to Detroit as a child. She's a graduate of Cass Technical High School and attended Howard University and the University of Michigan. She was married to former Michigan State Representative George Edwards.

Judy van der Velden / Flickr

A remake of the seventies Motown-inspired movie Sparkle will be filmed in metro Detroit and employ 266 people. The state approved a three-million-dollar film incentive for the seven-million-dollar project. Sparkle tells the story of three  sisters’ journey to musical fame during the height of the Motown era in Detroit.

Michelle Begnoche is with the Michigan Film Office. She says the film will stimulate Michigan’s economy.

"This is a project that’s focused really a lot on hiring Michigan workers for its crew so we will see the economic benefit from that – hiring our workforce – and then obviously it’s something that we can use on the backend after it comes out to kind of help promote tourism in the Detroit area," Begnoche said.

Producers hope to release Sparkle in 2014.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

The Strange Sound Of Motown's Early Hollywood Years

Jul 14, 2011

Everyone has heard of Motown Records, but few probably remember its Los Angeles offshoot, MoWest. It didn't last long — only two years — but during its life span, MoWest allowed Motown to try out new styles and genres and create one of the most eclectic rosters in the label's long history. Most of MoWest's releases have been out of print the past 40 years, but a new anthology called Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown's MoWest Story 1971-1973 finally highlights the label's life and legacy.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Motown sound will take center stage at the White House tonight.

More than 100 students will be at the special musical event, including several from the record label’s hometown of Detroit.

Detroit-native Augustine Cox loves music. The 17-year old says she's known she wants to go into the music business since she was in second grade; she wants to be a performer or a music producer.

When Cox, who goes to Birch Run High School, found out she was picked to go to Washington, D.C. for a Motown tribute concert at the White House, she was thrilled. She grew up listening to "the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, the Marvelettes, Smokey Robinson." Cox says she listens to today's music, too, "but when I want to hear real music and real passion, I throw on a Motown CD."

Her current fave? The Best of Michael Jackson.

The Queen of Soul's health has been of much concern of late.   But, after making a pre-taped appearence on the Grammy Awards, Aretha Franklin's health looked much improved.

The Associated Press reports Franklin will return to the concert stage this Spring:

Marcus Belgrave's Sounds of Detroit

Jun 11, 2010
Courtesy of Marcus Belgrave

Ann Arbor, MI Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye. Those are some of the big names of Detroit music. But another name worthy of top billing is trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. He's been a fixture in the Detroit scene for decades, and has covered everything from avant-garde to jazz standards. He even played on some of Motown's greatest hits.

Belgrave was recently honored by the Kresge Foundation as their Detroit Eminent Artist of the year. We sat down with the jazz trumpeter to talk about his life in music.

"This is Marcus Belgrave, eminent artist award for the year. I'm very excited about this award because it chronicles my life in Detroit for the last 40 years.

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