Motown founder Berry Gordy formed special bonds which each popular artist he has worked with and signed to his successful label. The record producer knew he was in the presence of great talent when he met Michael Jackson. Their bond first started when he signed The Jackson 5 to Motown in 1969.
Berry found early success with his label in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s after working with legendary artists like Jackie Wilson and Smokey Robinson. The Jackson 5 auditioned for Motown during a showcase in 1968, performing an iconic version of “Who’s Loving You” written by Smokey. Initially, Berry expressed hesitancy to sign another kids group to the label. However, seeing Michael’s talent was enough to change his mind instantly.
“Once I saw them, I rushed out with my video camera to start taping them because I knew that they were something so special, mainly because of the lead singer, 9-year-old Michael Jackson,” the Michigan native told NPR in June 2009. “And it was just so obvious to me that he was a star.”
After he was impressed by the group’s talent, Berry moved The Jackson 5 from Indiana to Los Angeles to work on their first four songs. All four of the songs, “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There” ended up going to No. 1, proving that the band was truly unlike anyone else out there. Dozens of Top 40 hits followed for the group with Motown.
Along with his decades-long friendship with Berry, Michael also forged a great bond with Diana Ross. The Golden Globe winner was also signed to Motown at the beginning of her career. She is credited for introducing The Jackson 5 to the world on television in 1969.
In 1971, the King of Pop recorded his debut solo single with Motown, “Got to Be There.” He released four albums from 1972 to 1975 before signing with Epic Records. Still, his friendship with Berry continued up until his death in 2009. Though Berry sold Motown in 1988, he will forever be known for launching the careers of some of the world’s biggest artists with his music expertise.
“It [Motown] allowed people to experiment creatively and gave them the courage not to be afraid to make mistakes,” he told Billboard in June 2017. “And it was the process that we loved, the togetherness, the camaraderie, and the honest competition. That helped keep everyone energized, and all that was topped by the love and respect we had for each other — and the fun. At Motown we always had fun.”
Keep scrolling to see some of Berry’s best quotes about working with his late friend.
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