Music Pioneer Berry Gordy's Legacy is Celebrated at Motown Museum Fundraiser Event

Music Pioneer Berry Gordy's Legacy is Celebrated at Motown Museum Fundraiser Event
Berry Gordy's acceptance speech at Hitsville Honors for Motown Legacy Award, presented by Producer Lee Daniels. Photo: Motown Museum.

The stars came out to pay homage to Motown Founder Berry Gordy this past weekend for a celebratory event commemorating the 60th anniversary of Motown Record Corporation. The three-day event started on Saturday September 21 and showcased an entertainment lineup full of music, celebrities and dignitaries that converged on Detroit for a celebration benefiting the Motown Museum.

Berry Gordy, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Robin Terry, and Curtis Terry. Photo: Motown Museum.

Berry Gordy, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Robin Terry, and Curtis Terry. Photo: Motown Museum.

Billed as Motown Weekend 60, the event served as the ceremonial marker for the museum reaching the halfway point in the fundraising campaign—$25 million raised—and the start of construction on the first of four phases comprising the museum’s $50 million expansion project.

Motown Museum Chairwoman and CEO Robin Terry is the great niece of Berry Gordy and spoke passionately about her uncle’s legacy. Terry says the plans to expand the Motown museum was announced in 2016 and has garnered major contributions, sponsors and donations.
“It’s been such an important year for us to share Motown history and celebrate this milestone in a big way,” said Terry. “Our Motown 60 Weekend is the culmination of a year-long celebration all happening right here in Detroit.  Most importantly, we will honor and celebrate Motown’s iconic visionary founder Berry Gordy in Detroit where this story was born.”

Kierra Sheard. Motown Gospel Concert. Photo: Motown Museum.

Kierra Sheard performing at the Motown Gospel Concert at Detroit World Outreach Church. Photo: Motown Museum.

Motown Gospel Concert – Saturday, Sept. 21 Triumph Church at the Detroit World Outreach Campus

Triumph Church at the Detroit World Outreach Campus hosted a free gospel concert as part of the Motown 60 Weekend. The concert featured a roster of super talent in today’s gospel music that included performances from Grammy Award-winning artist Regina Belle, Stellar Award-winning and current Motown Gospel label group Tye Tribbet & G.A., Tasha Page-Lockhart, winner of the gospel singing competition Sunday Best on BET and Detroit gospel artist, Kierra “Kiki” Sheard, with an impromptu performance from America’s Got Talent finalists the Detroit Youth Choir.

Regina Belle. Motown Gospel Concert. Photo: Motown Museum.

Regina Belle performing at the Motown Gospel Concert at Detroit World Outreach Church. Photo: Motown Museum.

Hundreds of  gospel music lovers and Motown fans filled the pews to help raise the $50 million dollars projected for the Motown Museum’s expansion. Detroit resident Tonia Baley shared her thoughts after the concert. “I visited the Motown Museum for the first time 2 years ago, and it was just beautiful. It was full of rich history so I really think they should expand it so more people can see it.”

“People are coming together and praising the Lord,” says  Motown fan Dianne Mato, “and also commemorating 60 years of Motown which I grew up with and love.”

Bishop Walter L. Starghill Jr.  enjoyed the concert as well and expressed how important it is to expand the museum to serve a new larger audience. “We came together as one under the music and umbrella of Motown with artists like Regina Bell and the new Detroit Youth Choir, says Bishop Starhghill.  That’s very significant that our legacy continues on and the vision for our young people continues to grow.”

Hitsville Next Groundbreaking event Motown Museum 60 Weekend. Photo: Motown Museum

Hitsville Next Groundbreaking event at Motown Museum 60 Weekend. Photo: Motown Museum.

Hitsville Next: Ground Breaking Ceremony – Sunday, Sept. 22:  at the Motown Museum

Sunday morning started off with a ground breaking ceremony at the Hitsville Motown Museum located at its landmark on Berry Gordy Jr. Boulevard in Detroit.   Hitsville is the original studio of Motown and currently serves as a museum where over 70,000 people visit annually.  It was announced in 2016 that the museum will expand to a 50,000 square feet attraction located in the heart of Detroit, with a planned campus center for innovative education and community programming.

Elesha Bridgers, Gov. Gretchen Whtimer, Berry Gordy and Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Motown Next, Groundbreaking. Photo: Motown Museum.

Elesha Bridgers, Gov. Gretchen Whtimer, Berry Gordy and Sen. Debbie Stabenow celebrate Motown Next, Groundbreaking. Photo: Motown Museum.

The outdoor event titled Motown Next was well attended with Berry Gordy’s great niece Robin Terry, who serves as Chairwoman and CEO of Motown Museum and her sister, former Motown Records Executive Elesha Bridgers,  along with special guests Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and Rev. Jesse Jackson.  Motown royalty Marvin Gaye III and ‘First Lady of Motown’ Claudette Rogers Robinson were also present along with Detroit’s favorite radio personality Donnie Simpson.

Berry Gordy, Robin Terry and SPARK Campers. Motown Next, Groundbreaking. Photo: Motown Museum.

Berry Gordy, Robin Terry and SPARK Campers. Motown Next, Groundbreaking. Photo: Motown Museum.

Governor Whitmer says the Motown Museum is a celebration of the music that changed America.   “By the time this project is finished, tens of thousands of people will come to Detroit to learn about the city’s history, it’s contributions to pop culture, and some of the incredible people who have called it home.”

Local and national news media along with an anxious crowd of over 200 people cheered when Berry Gordy stepped to the podium. His first words reflected his love for his family and how his older sister played an important role in Motown’s success. “Who I really want to honor here today is my big sister Esther Gordy Edwards,” Gordy says with emotion. “I was throwing out stuff and she was running around picking it up.  She took all this memorabilia and created this phenomenal monument, The Motown Museum. Esther Thank you!”

The Four Tops. Hitsville Honors. Photo: Motown Museum.

The Four Tops performing at Hitsville Honors at the Orchestra Hall in Detroit. Photo: Motown Museum.

Hitsville Honors: – Sunday, Sept. 22 at Orchestra Hall

Hitsville Honors was a powerful musical celebration of Motown’s 60 year legacy and a tribute to music pioneer Berry Gordy, who founded the Motown label in 1959. The afternoon started with a red carpet media blitz at The Orchestra Hall in Detroit with Motown alumni, guests of honors, Berry Gordy’s family and longtime friends making a grand entrance.

Ne-Yo performance Hitsville Honors. Photo: Motown Museum.

Ne-Yo performing at  Hitsville Honors at the Orchestra Hall in Detroit. Photo: Motown Museum.

Invited red carpet guests included Chae Stephen (Actor for Pride And Joy musical play), Charles Davis (original lead singer of Motown group The Contours), Claudette Rogers Robinson (former wife of Smokey Robinson, First Lady of Motown), Rhonda Ross (daughter of Diana Ross and Berry Gordy), Tasha Page- Lockhart (Stellar Award winning recording artist), Pamela Moffett (Award winning Motown songwriter), Levi Stubbs Jr. (son of  Four Tops original group member Levi Stubbs), and Beth Griffith-Manley (The Voice contestant-Season 17).

KEM and Beth Griffith-Manley performing at Hitsville Honors. Photo: Motown Museum.

KEM and Beth Griffith-Manley performing at Hitsville Honors at the Orchestra Hall in Detroit. Photo: Motown Museum.

The evening turned into a star-studded gala with over 2000 people in attendance.   The 3 1/2 hour event was hosted by actor Hill Harper who presented several awards to pioneers in the industry including award winning television producer Debra Lee (Esther Gordy Edwards Award of Excellence); Grammy Award winning Motown artist Ne-Yo (Spirit of Motown Award); Paul Riser (Motown 60 Hitsville Honors Award)  Shelly Berger (Motown 60 Hitsville Honors Award), and Legendary Motown Executive Susan dePasse  (The Game Changer Award).

Rhonda Ross, Berry Gordy, and Suzanne dePasse. Histville Honors. Photo: Motown Museum

Rhonda Ross, Berry Gordy, and Suzanne dePasse at the Hitsville Honors at the Orchestra Hall in Detroit. Photo: Motown Museum

Motown’s alumni Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and The Velvelettes performed with some of their original members.  They later joined contemporary artists Ne-Yo, Big Sean, and Doug E. Fresh to sing together onstage, Stevie Wonders’ ’70’s hit song ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours’.

Lee Daniels and Berry Gordy, accepting the Motown Legacy Award. Photo: Motown Museum.

Lee Daniels presents the Motown Legacy Award to Berry Gordy at Hitsville Honors at the Orchestra Hall in Detroit.  Photo: Motown Museum.

Award winning Producer-Director Lee Daniels made a surprise presentation and expressed his fondness for Motown music during his teenage years growing up.  Daniels presented Berry Gordy with the Motown Legacy Award for his influential music career and entrepreneurial vision.  Gordy will be celebrating his 90th birthday in November.  Earlier this month, he personally donated $4 million to the Motown Museum fundraising campaign.

In thanking the audience for his award he became emotional when announcing his retirement from the music industry.
“For years I have dreamt about it, talked about it, threatened it and tried to do it. In fact, this has gone on for so many years that those trying to help me retire (have) retired themselves. It is time for me to spend my next 60 years reflection on how fortunate I am, how much I appreciate and love all of you and how wonderful my life has been, and will continue to be.”

About the Author:  Don Howze is an Emmy Award Winning Film/Tape Editor and Associate Professor of Journalism and Broadcast Communications.  Don’s Emmy Nominated documentary A Star For Marvin Gaye will premiere this fall on Amazon Prime Video.  Interviews conducted by Contributing Author Daina Howze.

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