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Detroit’s non-automotive heritage: Motown changes popular music

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When one thinks about Detroit we first think about the automotive industry. In fact few cities in America are link so inseparably with an individual industry. But abbreviate the Motor City name just slightly and your mind will quickly be reminded of another of Detroit’s major industries: music.

Berry Gordy, Jr. founded Motown in 1959 to publish a new style of music. Rock and Roll was popular but Gordy was also influenced by soul and gospel music. He brought these three competitive genres together with an entirely unheard of sound. The charts would soon be topped with hits from Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Temptations, and the Jackson 5.

A sharp businessman, Gordy also created subsidiary business labels to produce the Motown sound so that DJs at radio stations could play more of his hits. This strategy protected the DJ’s from payola accusations that were commonly levied if a DJ played too many songs from a single label.

Gordy’s music was so popular that in the late 1960s it was not uncommon for Baby Boomers to associate Detroit with music more often than cars.

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