Heart with Soul: How Black Musicians Took Ownership of their Musical Roots, and Spread its Appeal to a Worldwide Audience: Part 3: Motown, The World, and the Legacy

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Motown has grown tremendously since 1959. They made their entry into the international market in 1964, when Mary Wells’ scored a hit in Britain with the release of My Guy. The Tamli-Motown Revue, consisting of performers Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandelles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, took their show to London in 1965. British singer Dusty Springfield introduced them on a televised display of their performance. Their reception was recognized by the Beatles, who covered a few Motown songs on their second album, With the Beatles.

Motown’s influence also reached the former Soviet Union. A band named Black Russian was comprised of three Russian citizens who immigrated to the United States in 1976 to seek political and musical freedom. They were signed by Motown president Berry Gordy in 1978. Black Russian was one of the few white acts that became part of this predominately black record company that promoted predominately black musicians. The group’s genre was a mix of rhythm and blues, soft rock, and pop. Two of their singles, Leave me Now, and Mystified, received attention and positive critical feedback.

A record company that primarily promoted black musicians performing soul music, Motown over the years branched out with subsidiaries into genres such as alternative,  hip hop/rap, jazz and rock.  Michael Eric Dyson, author of  Mercy, Mercy, Me: The Art, Love and Demons of Marvin Gaye summed up Motown’s legacy, “Motown shaped the musical tastes of millions of Americans with its bright melodies, upbeat lyrics, and crossover ambitions. It wanted to sell the beauty and brilliance of the black voice to white America. Motown broke down many racial barriers with its massive artistic achievements, even as it embodied both the triumphs and troubles of the American dream and capitalism.”

Below are videos of the Motown performers Martha and the Vandelles in London in 1965, as well as a recording of one of Black Russian’s recorded songs, Leave me Now.

 

 

 

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