A substantive, reasonably candid memoir from the founder of Detroit's legendary Motown Records, creator of the soundtrack of the '60s. Gordy opens in 1988, as he agonizes over the sale of his independent company to conglomerate giant MCA, but quickly flashes back to the period everyone wants to read about: Motown's Golden Age, 19601970, when Gordy and his crack team of songwriters, producers, and studio musicians (many of them affectionately portrayed here) created a series of brilliant pop records—from ``My Girl'' to ``Where Did Our Love Go'' to ``I Heard It Through the Grapevine''—that made artists like the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, and the Jackson Five famous. Along the way, Motown's success completed the destruction of musical segregation that had begun with the rock and soul explosion of the early 1950s. `` `Pop' means popular,'' writes Gordy on the subject of categorizing art. ``I never gave a damn what else it was called.'' His solidly middle-class, high-achieving parents were remarkably patient with his long search for a career (he was 29 when he started Motown in 1959 with an $800 loan from the family credit union), and he warmly depicts them and his siblings, many of whom came to work at Motown. A fair amount of time is also devoted to his active love life; he had eight children with five different women, including one with Diana Ross, the supreme Supreme he calls ``my star...my leading lady.'' Knowledgeable music fans will spot some selective recall on Gordy's part—he glosses over widespread resentment of Ross in particular—but for the most part he is frank about tensions within Motown and convincing in his rebuttal of charges that the company exploited its artists financially. His descriptions of the famous ``assembly-line'' process by which Motown crafted hits the way Detroit's auto companies cranked out cars shows the producers/songwriters as the primary artistic force behind the music. Nothing really new here, but a vivid recreation of a great period and a seminal company in popular music. (Author tour)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)