Motown founder Berry Gordy is more than just a successful record executive and music icon. He has also been a mentor and friend to some of the world’s most popular artists like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye. The father of eight wasn’t always a leading man in the music industry. He actually started off his career in a completely different field!
Berry, born in 1929 in Detroit, Michigan, was drafted into the U.S. Army in the early ‘50s during the Korean War. Once he returned home to the U.S., he uncovered a love for writing music. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee opened up a jazz record shop called 3-D Record Mart, per TheHistoryMakers.org.
Soon after, he realized that he had the potential to change the music industry by utilizing his incredible songwriting to start his own label. Initially named Tamla Records, the label saw some of its earliest success with Smokey Robinson and his band, the Miracles, performing hits like “Shop Around” and “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me.”
Tamla Records was renamed to Motown in 1960. For 30 years, the musical legend was the face of the label that helped discover the Jackson 5, Lionel Richie and Gladys Knight & the Pips. In 1988, Berry sold Motown to MCA, according to the New York Times. In 1994, he wrote the autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown in which he marveled at all the label had achieved in three decades.
In his life outside of the label, Berry became a father of eight children. He and his first wife, Thelma Coleman, welcomed three children during their marriage: Hazel Joy Gordy, Berry Gordy IV and Terry James Gordy. Their marriage lasted from 1953 to 1959. In 1960, he married his second wife, Raynoma Singleton, and the pair welcomed son Kerry Gordy. Their marriage ended in 1964.
The hitmaker is also a dad to son Kennedy William Gordy with Margaret Norton, daughter Sherry Gordy with Jeana Jackson, daughter Rhonda Ross with Diana and son Stefan Kendal Gordy with Nancy Leiviska.
Keep scrolling to learn five facts you might not know about Berry.
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