99 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Despite its inauspicious start in a residential Detroit home, Motown surpassed even its own grand ambitions as a world-beating hit factory by the mid-’60s. Founder Berry Gordy captained a dream team of young black producers and songwriters, including the multitalented Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye, introducing high-drama soul and subtle social commentary to mainstream pop with a long string of hits. The Supremes became the decade’s definitive girl group—thanks in large part to Diana Ross' sensuous yet vulnerable lead vocals and the bulletproof Holland-Dozier-Holland songbook—while Motown introduced legends like Stevie Wonder (who started out as a hired instrumentalist) and the Jackson 5 to the masses. World-class session players The Funk Brothers provided the tight-knit instrumentation for much of it, animating resonant compositions lush with savvy counter-melodies. The label evolved in step with the era’s rapid social changes, and by the dawn of the '70s was producing bold output more explicitly about civil rights and black life in America. As both a leading incubator of talent and a living, breathing soundtrack of young America, Motown has been unparalleled.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Despite its inauspicious start in a residential Detroit home, Motown surpassed even its own grand ambitions as a world-beating hit factory by the mid-’60s. Founder Berry Gordy captained a dream team of young black producers and songwriters, including the multitalented Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye, introducing high-drama soul and subtle social commentary to mainstream pop with a long string of hits. The Supremes became the decade’s definitive girl group—thanks in large part to Diana Ross' sensuous yet vulnerable lead vocals and the bulletproof Holland-Dozier-Holland songbook—while Motown introduced legends like Stevie Wonder (who started out as a hired instrumentalist) and the Jackson 5 to the masses. World-class session players The Funk Brothers provided the tight-knit instrumentation for much of it, animating resonant compositions lush with savvy counter-melodies. The label evolved in step with the era’s rapid social changes, and by the dawn of the '70s was producing bold output more explicitly about civil rights and black life in America. As both a leading incubator of talent and a living, breathing soundtrack of young America, Motown has been unparalleled.

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