Motown The Musical is the real story of Berry Gordy and Motown Records, featuring the music that inspired a generation, defined an era, re-shaped the music industry, and changed our culture forever. This exhilarating show captures the essence of the visionary Founder and the artists who joined the label and who fought against prejudice and racism to bring America together – breaking barriers, making us stronger, and keeping us moving to the same beat. Motown The Musical follows the legendary career of Berry Gordy and the creation of his musical empire, Motown Records.
It is the evening of the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of Motown and a reluctant Berry Gordy is unsure if he wants to attend. Reflecting back on his career and his labor of love, Gordy remembers listening to the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1938 and the joy and pride his community felt when Joe Louis, a Black American fighter defeated the German Max Schmeling. The historical context of this fight elevates its relevance – a black American competitor defeated a man from a country whose ideals were shifting towards the oppression of minorities. Joe Louis became a symbol of freedom and everything that America stands for – a true hero. While Berry Gordy’s father understood the broader context of the fight, little Berry just saw someone who looked like him bring joy and happiness to all the people he knew.
Wanting to affect the world in the same positive way, Gordy dreams big and sets his sights on bringing a socially-charged, racially divided country together with music. With a loan from his family, Gordy puts a down payment on a house and with the help of his friend Smokey Robinson and others he turns it into a music-making factory. Motown is born! Diana Ross and The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 and many more sign on, and with their new sound, Motown is ready to take the world by storm.
With the Vietnam War looming and the country at a cultural turning point, Gordy pushes on toward something bigger than he ever dreamed of, changing the world forever. Motown The Musical tells the thrilling tale of the man who broke barriers and fought against the odds to define the sound of a generation – complete with the ups and downs of the personal relationships, the professional struggles, and – of course – the music that made history.
During the early years, much of the music produced by Motown artists expressed the “Sound of Young America.” As the years passed, that sound began to grow up along with the youth of America and started to feature mature themes, opening a socially-conscious dialogue for the changing times. Have students create a playlist that features current songs that they believe are the “Sound of Young America” today. Remind them that these songs should not just be the top ten songs on the radio, but the songs that speak to what is happening in today’s world.
Motown The Musical will be at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall in Nashville, TN – February 16 through February 21, 2016.