Adopting the informal, laid-back voice of a narrator she calls “the Groove,” Pinkney offers readers a lively, engaging chronicle of the Motown sound.
Central to the story is the visionary impresario and Motown founder Berry Gordy. Although successful as a songwriter, the Detroit native was unhappy with the pittance earned for his labor while record company owners made a fortune. With $800 borrowed from his family, Gordy started Motown Records at a two-story bungalow he dubbed Hitsville USA. The ambitious Gordy drew on his experience working for Ford Motor Co. to turn Motown into an assembly line cranking out hit after hit. Gordy’s “Motown family” soon included such stellar acts as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five, and more. Pinkney interweaves into the narrative accounts of the cultural and political upheavals occurring during the years of Motown’s greatest success, such as the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and the deadly riots in Detroit. She explains how Gordy’s success in an industry dominated by white men at the time was all the more remarkable. Given this, it’s unfortunate she doesn’t take the opportunity to discuss how influential the Motown sound was on white musicians, particularly those of the British Invasion.
An ebullient, wonderfully told introduction to music that had an indelible influence on a generation and its times. (photos, timeline, discography, source notes, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)