Motown Legacy


Detroit is the birthplace of Motown: an American record company and an American cultural phenomenon. Home to some of the most celebrated musicians, their work has played an important role in the racial integration of popular music. The success of artists like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and Lionel Richie eventually created a new genre, “Motown Sound”, soul music with a distinct pop influence. Motown set the records, broke the records, and did so while crossing boundaries— the artists revolutionized how African American people were perceived culturally.

Tamla Records
January, 1959
Last Night
February, 1959
Berry Gordy
August, 1959
The Miracles
September, 1959

'Bad Girl'
Makes
Good With
Chess

The Miracles’ “Bad Girl,” written by Berry Gordy and William “Smokey” Robinson, is released under license to Chess Records.

Home Of The
Hits On West
Grand Blvd.

Berry Gordy buys a two-story house at 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, and puts up a sign to signal his intentions: Hitsville U.S.A.

Birth
Of The
Motortown
Revue

The “Gordy Star Attractions Show” makes its debut, featuring the Miracles, Marv Johnson and Mable John, among others.

Berry
Gordy
Receives
$800.00
Loan

Berry Gordy Jr. launches Tamla Records with an $800 loan from the Gordy family savings fund, and releases Marv Johnson’s “Come To Me.”

Barrett Strong
March, 1960
Mary Wells
June, 1960
Marvin Gaye
September, 1960
The Miracles
October, 1960

The Miracles' First National Hit

The Miracles’ first national hit, “Shop Around” is released, after Berry Gordy summons the Miracles to the studio at 3 a.m. to re-record the song.

Marvin Gaye signs to Motown

After singing with the Moonglows, Marvin Gaye moves to Detroit and, through group leader Harvey Fuqua’s contacts, joins Motown.

Mary Wells' Debut Single

"Bye Bye Baby" is the debut Motown single by 17-year-old Mary Wells, who wrote the song herself.

Money (That's What I Want)

First released on Tamla Records, Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)” is a hit when nationally distributed by Anna Records.

The Supremes
January, 1961
Stevie Wonder
July, 1961
The Temptations
July, 1961
The Marvelettes
December, 1961

Motown's First No. 1

Motown ends the year with its first No. 1 on the pop charts: “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes.

The Temptations' Debut Single

“Oh Mother Of Mine,” the Temptations’ debut for Motown Records, is issued on the company’s Miracle label.

Motown Sign Little Stevie Wonder

Berry Gordy signs Little Stevie Wonder after an impressive audition at Hitsville by the 11-year-old, playing several instruments.

The Supremes Sign To Motown

The Supremes sign to Motown, with their first 45 on the Tamla label, “I Want A Guy,” released in March.

Lamont Dozier
June, 1962
The Contours
September, 1962
Motortown Revue
October, 1962
Marvin Gaye
December, 1962

Marvin Gaye Enters The Charts

Marvin Gaye has his first Top 50 pop hit with “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow.”

The Motortown Revue Begins

The first “Motortown Revue” package tour of more than two dozen cities begins in Washington, DC.

First Top 20 Single For Gordy Label

The Gordy label gains its first Top 20 success with “Do You Love Me” by the Contours.

First Holland/Dozier/ Holland Teamwork

Motown issues “Dearest One” by Lamont Dozier, his first song written with Eddie and Brian Holland.

The Marvelettes
February, 1963
Four Tops
April, 1963
Stevie Wonder
August, 1963
Martha and The Vandellas
October, 1963

Motown Signs U.K. License Deal

Motown kicks off its new U.K. license deal with EMI Records with the release of Martha & the Vandellas’ “Heat Wave”.

The 12 Year Old Genius

Little Stevie Wonder’s The 12 Year Old Genius Recorded Live is Motown’s first No. 1 album, as “Fingertips – Pt. 2” tops the Hot 100.

The Four Tops Sign To Motown

The Four Tops sign to Motown, and begin recording in Studio A at Hitsville.

Holland / Dozier / Holland Chart Success

The Marvelettes’ “Locking Up My Heart” is released to become an early chart success for the Holland/Dozier/Holland team.

Shorty Long
March, 1964
Mary Wells
May, 1964
The Supremes
August, 1964
Smokey Robinson
November, 1964

Smokey Pens My Girl

The Temptations get together with Smokey Robinson at Hitsville’s Studio A to record a new song, “My Girl.”

The Supremes' Chart Success

The Supremes begin their run of five consecutive No. 1 hits with “Where Did Our Love Go”.

My Guy Tops The Beatles

“My Guy” by Mary Wells becomes Motown’s fourth No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the company's first major U.K. hit.

Motown launches Soul label

Motown launches its Soul label with Shorty Long’s “Devil With The Blue Dress” whilst Jimmy Ruffin and Jr. Walker & The All Stars join the roster.

Tamla Motown UK
March, 1965
Four Tops
June, 1965
The Supremes
July, 1965
Brenda Holloway
August, 1965

Brenda opens for the Beatles

Brenda Holloway opens for the Beatles at the group’s historic concert at Shea Stadium, New York.

The Supremes' debut at Copacabana

The Supremes make their triumphant debut at New York’s Copacabana nightclub.

Motown's 10th No. 1

The Four Tops achieve Motown Records’ tenth No. 1 with “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch).”

Tamla Motown U.K. Tour

The Tamla Motown label is launched in the U.K., while Martha & the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, the Miracles and the Supremes begin touring England, Scotland and Wales.

Temptin' Temptations
March, 1966
Marvin Gaye
August, 1966
Four Tops
October, 1966
The Temptations
December, 1966

The Temptations Enter the Top 10, Again

Motown takes its thirteenth Top 10 pop hit of the year with the Temptations’ “(I Know) I’m Losing You.”

The Four Tops Hit No.1

The Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There” is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Marvin Gaye At The Copa

The latest Motown star to play New York’s Copacabana is Marvin Gaye.

Temptin' Temptations hits the charts

Temptin’ Temptations is the first of the group’s two Top 20 albums this year; the second is Gettin’ Ready.

Stevie Wonder
May, 1967
Diana Ross
July, 1967
Diana Ross & The Supremes
November, 1967
Gladys Knight & The Pips
December, 1967

I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Gladys Knight & The Pips’ “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” is No. 1 on the R&B best-sellers and No. 2 on the pop charts.

Motown's Chart Triumph

Motown takes ten of Billboard’s top 100 best-selling albums, including Diana Ross & the Supremes’ Greatest Hits at No. 1.

Presenting Diana Ross & The Supremes

“Reflections” is the first release to feature new billing for Motown’s prime attraction: Diana Ross & the Supremes.

Stevie's Back On Track

Motown releases Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her” to become his biggest hit since “Fingertips – Pt. 2.”

Four Tops
February, 1968
Motown Centre
March, 1968
Jackson Five
July, 1968
The Supremes
December, 1968

Motown Take Half the Top 10

Motown takes half the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, including the Top 3 with Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross & the Supremes.

The Jackson 5 Audition

The Jackson 5 audition for Motown, and the Temptations gain a new lead singer.

Motown HQ Moves

Motown Record Corp. officially opens its new Detroit headquarters in downtown’s Woodward Avenue, moved from West Grand Boulevard.

First Motown No.1 Album in the U.K.

The Four Tops’ Greatest Hits takes the top slot in the U.K. from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Marvin Gaye
January, 1969
Cloud Nine
March, 1969
Jackson Five
August, 1969
Diana Ross and The Supremes
November, 1969

Diana To Leave The Supremes

Billboard reports Motown’s announcement that Diana Ross will leave the Supremes for a solo career, with Jean Terrell to join the “new” Supremes.

The Jackson 5 Are Unveiled

Motown throws a launch party in Los Angeles for the Jackson 5, and unveils its new rock label, Rare Earth, in Detroit.

Motown's First Grammy®

Motown earns its first Grammy® award with the Temptations’ “Cloud Nine.”

Marvin Sits On The Top Spot

America’s No. 1 single this entire month is “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye.

The Supremes
January, 1970
Jackson Five
January, 1970
Tamla Motown U.K.
November, 1970
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
December, 1970

Motown's Seventh No.1 Of The Year

Motown triumphs with its seventh No.1 of the year on the Billboard Hot 100 with Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “The Tears Of A Clown.”

Tamla Motown Invades the U.K. Charts

Tamla-Motown takes a quarter of the U.K. Top 20 with hits by Edwin Starr, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Diana Ross and Jimmy Ruffin.

The Jackson 5 Are On A Roll

With “I Want You Back,” the Jackson 5 score the first of four consecutive No. 1 hits this year.

Diana's Final Farewell

Diana Ross & the Supremes play their final show together at the Frontier Hotel, Las Vegas.

Grammy Award
March, 1971
Marvin Gaye
May, 1971
MoWest
July, 1971
Jackson Five
September, 1971

The Jackson 5 Become TV Stars

Motown’s latest TV stars are the Jackson 5, front and center in their own special, Goin’ Back To Indiana, and a cartoon series, The Jackson 5ive.

MoWest Scores A Chart Hit

Motown's new L.A.-based label, MoWest, has its first chart entry with Tom Clay's "What The World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin and John".

What's Going On

One of Motown’s greatest music milestones, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album, is released.

Motown Wins Its 2nd Grammy®

Motown wins its second-ever Grammy® award, for Dr. Martin Luther King’s album, Why I Oppose The War In Vietnam.

The Commodores
March, 1972
Marvin Gaye
May, 1972
Stevie Wonder & The Rolling Stones
June, 1972
Smokey Robinson
July, 1972

Smokey's Final Performance With The Miracles

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles play their final concerts together in Washington, D.C.

Stevie Opens for The Rolling Stones

Stevie Wonder kicks off a 50-date itinerary opening for the Rolling Stones, and the Jackson 5 begin a nationwide summer tour in New York.

Marvin Performs What's Going On

Marvin Gaye performs What’s Going On in its entirety at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The Commodores' Debut

The Commodores’ debut Motown single, “The Zoo (The Human Zoo),” is released on the MoWest label.

The Temptations
March, 1973
Diana Ross
April, 1973
Stevie Wonder
August, 1973
Marvin Gaye
September, 1973

Marvin's First No. 1 in 4 Years

“Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye is his first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 since “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”

Stevie Wonder Releases Innervisions

Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions album is released, three days before the musician is involved in a traumatic auto accident in North Carolina.

Diana's First Solo No.1 Album

Diana Ross scores her first solo No. 1 album with the soundtrack from Lady Sings The Blues, in which she plays the late jazz singer, Billie Holiday.

The Temptations Take 3 Grammy® Awards

Motown’s 30th No. 1 hit, “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations, takes three Grammy® awards.

Stevie Wonder
March, 1974
Diana Ross
June, 1974
Jimmy Ruffin
August, 1974
Stevie Wonder
September, 1974

Fulfill-
ingness' First Finale Hits No.1

Motown is No. 1 on the album charts once more, with Stevie Wonder’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale.

Jimmy Ruffin Returns To U.K. Top 10

Jimmy Ruffin’s 1966 smash, “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,” is a U.K. Top 10 hit for the second time.

'Diana Ross Month'

Motown declares this to be “Diana Ross Month,” with her new album, Live At Caesar’s Palace, at its centerpiece.

Stevie Wonder Wins 5 Grammys®

Stevie Wonder is honoured with five Grammy® awards, including Album of the Year for Innervisions, and two for “Superstition.”

Stevie Wonder
March, 1975
Smokey Robinson
March, 1975
The Commodores
August, 1975
Diana Ross
October, 1975

Mahogany Opens In New York

Diana Ross’ second feature film, Mahogany, directed by Berry Gordy, opens in New York.

The Commodores Enter The Top 20

“Slippery When Wet” becomes the Commodores’ first Top 20 success on the Billboard Hot 100 as the group’s popularity grows.

A Quiet Storm

Smokey Robinson’s third solo album, A Quiet Storm, is released, later to inspire an entire music radio format.

Stevie Cleans Up At The Grammys®

Stevie Wonder makes a second consecutive sweep of the Grammy® awards, this time with Fulfillingness’ First Finale.

The Miracles
March, 1976
The Supremes
August, 1976
Marvin Gaye
September, 1976
Stevie Wonder
October, 1976

Stevie's Songs In The Key Of Life Tops The Charts

Stevie Wonder’s Songs in The Key of Life begins a 14-week run at the top of the Billboard album charts.

Marvin Sells Out Royal Albert Hall

Marvin Gaye performs his first-ever concerts in the U.K., selling out London’s Royal Albert Hall and adding a show at the London Palladium.

The Supremes' Final Top 40 Hit

The Supremes enjoy their final Top 40 hit on the pop charts with “I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking.”

Motown Embraces Disco

Disco rules. Among the winners are the Miracles ("Love Machine") and Diana Ross ("Love Hangover"), both with No. 1 hits.

Stevie Wonder
January, 1977
Thelma Houston
April, 1977
Marvin Gaye
May, 1977
The Supremes
June, 1977

The Supremes Perform Their Last Concert

The Supremes – Mary Wilson, Susaye Greene, Scherrie Payne – perform their last concert together, at London’s Theatre Royal.

Marvin's Live At The London Palladium Climbs The Charts

Marvin’s Live At The London Palladium climbs into the Top 3 of the album charts as “Got To Give It Up” heads for No. 1.

Thelma Houston Sets A Motown First

“Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston is the first Motown single to reach No. 1 on the pop, R&B and dance charts.

Stevie's Fifth No.1

Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” becomes his fifth No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Motown’s 40th.

Rick James
April, 1978
The Commodores
August, 1978
The Wiz
October, 1978
Marvin Gaye
December, 1978

Marvin Releases Here, My Dear

Here, My Dear, Marvin Gaye’s emotional farewell to his first wife, Anna, is released.

Motown Premieres The Wiz

Motown Productions premieres its newest movie, The Wiz, starring Diana Ross and co-starring Michael Jackson and Richard Pryor.

The Commodores' First No.1

“Three Times A Lady,” written by Lionel Richie, is the first No. 1 on the pop charts for the Commodores.

Rick James' Breakthrough

Rick James’ first Motown album, Come Get It, is released, featuring his breakthrough hit, “You And I.”

Pops We Love You
January, 1979
Teena Marie
May, 1979
Bonnie Pointer
September, 1979
Stevie Wonder
December, 1979

Stevie Performs His First Movie Soundtrack

Stevie Wonder performs music from his first movie soundtrack, Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants, at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.

Bonnie Pointer Brings Back A Classic

A Motown hit from the 1960s returns to the limelight as Bonnie Pointer’s update of “Heaven Must Have Sent You” reaches the Top 20.

Rick James Lends A Hand

Teena Marie is Motown’s newest hitmaker as “I’m Just A Sucker For Your Love,” written and produced by Rick James, debuts on the R&B charts.

Pops We Love You

Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson hit the charts with their four-way tribute to Berry Gordy’s late father, “Pops We Love You.”

Billy Preston & Syreeta
January, 1980
The Temptations
May, 1980
Jermaine Jackson
July, 1980
Stevie Wonder
November, 1980

A Tribute To Bob Marley

A tribute to reggae godfather Bob Marley, “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” becomes Stevie Wonder’s 22nd Top 10 smash.

Jermaine Jackson Gets Serious

Jermaine Jackson has a new Top 10 hit with “Let’s Get Serious,” written and produced by Stevie Wonder.

The Tempt-
ations Are Chartbound Once More

Re-signed to Motown, the Temptations are chartbound once more with “Power,” co-written and co-produced by Berry Gordy.

Motown's Newest Success

Motown’s newest international success is “With You I’m Born Again” by Billy Preston & Syreeta, a Top 3 hit in the UK.

Marvin Gaye
January, 1981
Smokey Robinson
June, 1981
Rick James
July, 1981
Endless Love
August, 1981

Diana & Lionel Love, Endlessly

Diana Ross & Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love” begins its nine-week run at No. 1 to become one of Motown’s all-time top-selling singles.

Rick James Storms The Charts

Street Songs by Rick James hits the Top 5 of the album charts, going on to sell more than three million copies.

Motown Celebrates Smokey's Success

Motown kicks off a year-long celebration of Smokey Robinson’s 25th anniversary in showbiz, following his biggest-ever solo hit, “Being With You.”

Marvin Releases His Final Album For Motown

Marvin Gaye’s final album for Motown, In Our Lifetime, is released.

Stevie Wonder
April, 1982
Charlene
May, 1982
The Dazz Band
July, 1982
Lionel Riche
November, 1982

Lionel Pens His First Solo Hit

The first single from Lionel Richie’s latest album, “Truly” is his first No. 1 as a solo singer/songwriter.

The New Hitmakers: The Dazz Band

The Dazz Band are Motown’s newest hitmakers as “Let It Whip” becomes a Top 5 smash on the pop charts.

Gordy Co-Produces A Hit For Charlene

Charlene’s “I’ve Never Been To Me,” co-produced by Berry Gordy, is a Top 3 success, almost five years after its first release.

Stevie Prepares

Motown announces that Stevie Wonder has re-signed with the company, and prepares the release of his Original Musiquarium I set.

Motown 25
March, 1983

To experience more of Motown's history, consider visiting our source www.classic.motown.com

Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever

An NBC-TV special, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, celebrates the artists and music of the company’s extraordinary quarter-century.