As the founder of Motown Records, legendary music producer/songwriter Berry Gordy has been a major pioneer in both the artistic and business sides of the music industry. He is the creative force behind launching the careers and penning hits for some of biggest names in music history including The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Miracles and Michael Jackson, to name a few. Now, Gordy will receive a rare and distinguished honor from the Songwriters Hall Of Fame as this year’s recipient of the Pioneer Award.
“Berry Gordy is an innovator and a visionary,” Jimmy Webb, chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “Yes, he created a label but more than that, he created a genre. Think about it, he pioneered a marketplace for African-American artistry and then he invited the world in to enjoy it.”
The award was established in 2012 to honor a “historic creator of an extensive body of musical work that has been a major influence on generations of songwriters.” Folk artist Woodie Guthrie received the first honor posthumously last year, making Gordy the first living person to receive the award for his musical achievements.
“Berry was way ahead of his time; his young and immaculately groomed and dressed artists were among the first to receive media training,” added Webb. “Berry Gordy and the Motown sound are essential to the American music story.” That story of Gordy’s influential life and career is currently being told on stage in Motown: The Musical, which began previews on Broadway this week.
According to Gordy, this musical may be the last major project we see from the music mogul. “Most likely it will be my last major endeavor in a creative way,” he said in an interview with Billboard. “Of course everyone disagrees with me when I say that statement. This is probably the epitome of everything I’ve done – that I’ve wanted to do.” The Songwriters Hall of Fame’s 44th Annual Induction and Awards Dinner takes place on Thursday, June 13th at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. This year’s inductees to the Hall of Fame include Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Mick Jones and Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Holly Knight, JD Souther and Tony Hatch.
— Britt Bickel, K-EARTH Los Angeles