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Kennedy Center to honor Motown Founder Berry Gordy

Berry Gordy
Posted at 2:39 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 14:39:54-04

(WSYM) — The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced that Motown Music Founder Berry Gordy will be among the honorees at the 44th Kennedy Center honors.

The ceremony honors lifetime artist achievements. Others being honored with the award this year include Saturday Night Live Creator Lorne Michaels, stage and screen icon Bette Midler and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.

“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates luminaries whose art and creativity have enriched us beyond measure,” Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a release. “Visionary music producer and songwriter Berry Gordy brought the quintessential soulfulness of Detroit into every home in America , elevating the Motown sound to become a national treasure."

“This year’s Honorees represent the unifying power of the Arts and surely remind us of that which binds us together as human beings. These artists are equal parts genius, inspiration, and entertainment,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “After the challenges and heartbreak of the last many months, and as we celebrate 50 years of the Kennedy Center, I dare add that we are prepared to throw ‘the party to end all parties’ in D.C. on December 5th, feting these extraordinary people and welcoming audiences back to our campus. We look forward to shaping an even more exciting Honors program and broadcast with CBS and the producers based on the success and newfound innovations of our 43rd Honors earlier this year.”

Motown started after getting an $800 loan from his family’s Ber-Berry Co-op in 1959 before starting Motown Record Corporation in 1960.

During 1960, Motown produced “Money (That’s What I Want),” Barret Strong’s biggest hit, co-written by Gordy, and “Shop Around” by The Miracles.

He purchased a two-family home on West Grand Blvd. and moved his family into the upper unit, while building the record company on the first floor. In a converted garage behind the home, he had Studio A, which produced many of Motown’s hits.

He is credited with discovering and signing some of the most popular musicians in history, including Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5 and many more.

The first single after purchasing the home was the Miracles, led by Smokey Robinson. In 1961, the Miracles would get Motown’s first-ever million-seller with “Shop Around,” according to the website. In that same year, the Marvelettes had the first No. 1 pop song, “Please Mr. Postman.”

The house still stands as a tribute to the music as the Motown Museum. That museum is a destination for music lovers around the world and is now set to get a $50 million expansion. Gordy himself donated $4 million.