5 Things I Learned from My Trip To Motown: Hitsville, USA
My father's birthday was coming up and I said to him, what do you want to do for your birthday. He looked at me smiled and said, I want to go to Motown.
Now, this is funny because he ALWAYS says this. And when we lived in Philly we would just laugh and just buy him a cake because it's a nine-hour drive. We left Philadelphia seven years ago, wow, and I'm living in Ohio now while my parents are still in West Virginia.
I looked at the map and said it's a two and a half hour drive to my house in Ohio and a three-hour drive to Motown, so let's do it.
He rented a car my husband, brother mom and dad were off to the Motor City.
It was more than I expected.
A little background on my relation to Motown. During the 90s we had a bunch of deaths in the family. We would get into the car and head to the Chesapeake Bay and pay our respects. But during that five-hour drive dad would pop in his mixed tape cassettes that he would make from records and we would learn and sing the songs. My brother surprised us one day when he knew the words to I'm Gonna Make You Love Me.
Check out my oldies playlist
So even though we were going to sad events we had the music on the way there and back to connect us.
We weren't allowed to listen to rap - any rap. I didn't start listening to rap until I was in high school so I can try to keep up with what everyone was talking about so I always leaned towards R&B.
When we arrived, there's no parking! We managed a place to park and it just looked welcoming. It looked like a sanctuary.
The night before we watched the 2002 special, Standing in the Shadows of Motown. I knew about the Funk Brothers but I didn't know that there were so many and how they struggled during Motown's hey day and after when Gordy closed his doors.
Gordy is an inspirational story to me because no matter what controversy he may have had to deal with he was living his full potential. He's in his 80s still working at it and has a play written about his life.
That I just will have to go and see somehow.
I was glad that I got to go and see this with the people I'm close to in my life. I'm bummed my cousins weren't able to make it. But standing in that room Studio A where it was literally just as Gordy envisioned it.
An assembly line where people walked in normal people and walked out icons. I was this close to Michael Jackson's hat and glove, the ones he wore when he did the moonwalk for the first time.
I should have prepared myself for the fact that there would be no pictures inside. There's cameras all over so I didn't sneak any. So bummed. All I have are mental pictures. Which will fail me the older I get but I hope not.
The tour guide told us Beyonce had recently visited before the twins were born. What! I stood where Beyonce stood yall!
It meant more to me than what I thought it would. I learned a lot.
1. Berry borrowed some of the start-up money from his family. The family threw in $10/mo and if anyone wanted to borrow that money they could but they had to say what it was for and pay it back after a certain time with interest.
I've heard about families doing this. I need to start doing this again with my own family.
2. Dad always wondered why there were so many labels - because the radio station were only allowed to play a certain number of songs per hour. So Gordy said ok and created a bunch of subsidiaries so his artists can get more radio play.
3. I didn't know Smokey Robinson was the one who told Berry he needed his own label and that they grew up around the corner from Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin. What!
4. Stevie Wonder's favorite candy is Babe Ruth and he used to pretend to be Gordy over the phone.
5. Berry Gordy's sister Esther was an integral part in Motown and it's operations.
The names of people who have made hits in that room is SO LONG. I wonder if Inner City Blues and Bernadette were recorded there. We even got to see Berry's apartment and the sofa where Marvin Gaye slept on when he stayed there.
The desk and switchboard Martha Reeves operated before she became a sensational success.
I think my father explained it best when he said when he was growing up you could see that it said Detriot on the album but you didn't know all of this was going on until you became older. And then you knew about Hittsville and then to actually see it and look at it is special because it's not just a building.
The people who crossed that threshold made it into much more than just a building. They devoted their energy and talents to making it a success.
There is so much I learned that day. That trip is something no one can ever take from me and the tour guide was excellent. I loved her dreds.
So good so much fun what I've put into this blog is only a fraction of what I've learned on that trip. Everyone who is a Motown fan should make it. They said people from all over the world have come to visit a lot of people from Africa and even China and Russia.