In 1959, an aspiring songwriter and record producer named Berry Gordy Jr. borrowed $800 to start his own record label in Detroit. Good investment. Within a year, Motown had its first million-selling record, with the Miracles’ “Shop Around.” By 1969, the label would place dozens of records in the Billboard Top 10 as it reshaped the sound of pop music for a generation, thanks to its somewhat contradictory mix of assembly-line consistency and individual artistic brilliance, integrationist upward mobility and black self-assertion, fierce competition and familial camaraderie. “I was so happy whenever I got a hit record on one of the artists,” said Smokey Robinson, the label’s greatest songwriting genius. “Because they were my brothers and sisters.”

 

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