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Motown Celebrates 50 Years With Gala

“The pleasure is mine to be here,” Gordy said during a pre-concert reception. “I’m thrilled I got the nurturing and all of the things Detroit had to offer me. Motown could not have made it in any other city.”

Gordy was joined on the red carpet earlier in the evening by local and national celebrities and dignitaries, including Otis Williams of the Temptations, which was on the bill; Claudette Robinson of the Miracles; the Rev. Jesse Jackson; comedian Sinbad, the event’s host; and Detroit Mayor and former Detroit Pistons all-star Dave Bing.

The musical mingling of classic Motown artists such as Wonder and The Temptations with non-Motown hometown heroes Franklin and Rock reveals the reverence for and relevance of the label.

Kid Rock was scheduled to perform with Wonder on the Motown great’s song “Living For The City.”

“I’m excited, I’m happy, I’m blessed just to be from here,” Kid Rock said as he sauntered in the ballroom before the concert, calling it a career “milestone.”

He said his mother, who was out of state, sent him a text message: “Who would have thought when we were partying in our barn, playing all those Motown records when you were a kid that you’d be playing the 50th gala?”

The gala is a regular event for the museum, but it took a higher profile this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the label’s founding.

Museum CEO Audley Smith said the facility wants to expand to hold thousands of artifacts and memorabilia that can’t be displayed because of space, but he stressed the museum will maintain the integrity of the well-known Hitsville USA house on West Grand Boulevard.

The gala also included special tributes to Motown alumni who have died, including Michael Jackson. Gordy, at Jackson’s memorial service in July, talked about the 10-year-old prodigy he signed, calling him “the greatest entertainer that ever lived.”

Homecomings are rare these days for Gordy, who lives in California, but bonds remain: His sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, founded the museum now overseen by his great-niece, Robin Terry. He’s also a premier sponsor of the gala.

President Barack Obama sent well wishes via a videotaped message. He said Gordy’s “music made history” and his record company “captured a truly American sound.”

Franklin sang a customized birthday ode to Gordy, who turns 80 on Nov. 28.

“Detroit, we’ve waited long enough — Berry’s come home at last,” she sang.

Afterward, Franklin called Gordy to the stage, saying “he absolutely revolutionized the music industry, single-handedly.”
He was then presented a crystal plaque, a large cake and a mass serenade of “Happy Birthday.”

Not to be outdone when it was his time to take the stage, Wonder offered Gordy his take on “Happy Birthday,” from his “Hotter than July” album.

“This room tonight is full of love, full of magic. That’s what Motown was all about,” he said.

Gordy told the crowd he was inspired by his time spent on a Detroit auto factory floor to make a music company that was like “an assembly line” of talent.

“That dream came true.”

Associated Press

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