Record label Legend Motown goes to Broadway

Record Label owner Barry Gordy

Record Label Legend Barry Gordy is going to make Broadway his last hoo- ray with the debut of his life in “Motown: The Musical,” set to run at the Lunt-Fontainne Theatre.

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“Most likely it will be my last major endeavor in a creative way,” he said in a telephone interview. “Of course everyone disagrees with me when I say that statement. This is probably the epitome of everything I’ve done – that I’ve wanted to do.”

It was reported that Barry Gordy did not just sign off on the production he even co-produced the show delivered its book and three original songs.  (So Barry Gordy even at 83 years old, he is still running the show)

“When I came to Broadway, I had no idea I was going to love it as much as I do,” Gordy said. “(People asked), `How are you going to Broadway-ize Motown?’ I said, `I’m not going to Broadway-ize Motown, I’m going to bring Motown to Broadway.'”

The musical will star Broadway vetrans including  director Charles Randolph-Wright and actors Brandon Victor Dixon (Gordy) and Valisia LeKae (Diana Ross), all of whom are Broadway fixtures.

Gordy described it as “very difficult” to select classic Motown tracks for the musical, considering the massive trove from which to choose.

Randolph-Wright joked late last year that the show might be 15 hours long. The first version had 100 tunes in it, “and I wanted every song,” he said.

But both men agreed that the way to solve the too-many-songs problem was to focus on numbers that fit the musical’s thematic structure, or what Randolph-Wright called “the spine of the story.”

Since Gordy had special insight into the songs that comprise the record label vast catalog, he was able to make suggestions as to which ones fit particular story arcs. That was the case with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” which ends the first act; and “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today),” The Temptations classic that starts the second.

Gordy’s role went well beyond song-selector, however.

Gordy, who penned his first hit during the Eisenhower Administration, returned to his songwriting roots, working alongside longtime collaborator Michael Lovesmith to create a trio of original compositions for the musical: “Hey Joe,” “Can I Close the Door on Love?” and “It’s What’s in the Groove that Counts.”

While all are personal songs – the show, after all, is about his life story – Gordy dug deep for “Hey Joe,” which commemorates the inspiration he experienced as an 8-year-old when Detroit’s own Joe Louis defeated German boxing great Max Schmeling in a 1938 heavyweight title fight.

“I saw my mother crying. I saw my father crying. Everyone was so crazy, just going mad,” Gordy said. “So I thought to myself then, `What could I do in my life ever to make this many people happy?’ That’s where I got the original passion from.”

Two decades later, Gordy had set aside his dream of a boxing career and was writing songs on the side while working at a Ford Motor Co. plant. That’s when he secured an $800 loan from his family’s savings club and started his own record company, one that he vowed would produce music for all listeners, not “black music for black people” as had been the standard.

Gordy succeeded beyond even his wildest imagination, hiring immensely talented writers, producers, engineers, musicians and singers who blended traditional gospel, jazz, R&B and pop to create a unique sound that had crossover appeal for audiences of all ages and backgrounds and broke down racial barriers at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Read more on the Record Label Mogul, Barry Gordy at Huffington Post


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