Ain’t No COVID Strong Enough to Keep Me From You, Motown!

Yesterday, I took my parents to the Motown Museum on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.

With Mom and Dad visiting us for the week, I wasn’t sure what attractions were open to the public. And since Motown gets hundreds of visitors a day from all across the globe, I figured that if even the museum was open, we wouldn’t be able to get tickets.

Boy, am I glad was I wrong!

Yes, the museum tour is a bit modified and the tour groups are much smaller in size, but Motown is back open for business and prepared to give you a safe and amazing experience!

Your temp is taken prior to entering the building, they’ve constructed a pop-up outdoor gift shop so that you’re not crammed into the indoor store, there’s no watching the documentary in the small viewing room, and no singing into the echo chamber. Families/those who came together can stand together during the tour, but must stand at least six feet from all others.

In short, the museum staff has done an incredible job ensuring visitors’ safety!

All that being said, I was worried that my dad (who’d yet to visit the museum) would miss out on some of the magic of the tour. Within minutes, that concern melted away.

Not only did I learn new details about Motown and its iconic members on my third or fourth visit to the museum, I got the surprise of my life when our tour guide announced that we could now take pictures throughout the tour of the two houses!

Ladies, gents, and all those gender non-conforming, as you may know, I’m a bit of an amateur photog. Not only that, I’m a bit obsessed with music, music history, and with R&B and soul music in particular.

So when I was told I could snapshots of all the incredible photos taken by Motown photographer Jim Hendin and of such historic artifacts as Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” hat and crystal-studded glove?!? Yeah . . . I was as pumped up as a diabetic kid in a sugar-free candy store!

Now, I apologize for the glare and odd angles, but we only had a few minutes to take our pictures and were taking turns with the other patrons.

But for anyone interested in the museum who’s yet to actually visit it, I think you’ll get a good idea of just how special the place really is.

Here we go! The following photos are displayed in order as we went through the tour.

A young Stevie Wonder
The wall of artists as you enter the museum
Mr. Gordy with Dr. King, Lena Horne, and Billy Taylor
The first eight houses Motown acquired in its empire
A young Gordy atop his street signs
Berry Gordy’s parents, Berry Sr. and Bertha, who moved to Detroit during the beginning of the Great Migration. Mr. and Mrs. Gordy were entrepreneurs in their own right and created a family trust (known as the Ber-Berry Co-Op) that would allow Berry Jr. the initial funding to start Motown
Berry Jr. showing that swag!
Berry Gordy was, at one time, a professional boxer, even fighting on the same ticket as heavyweight champ Joe Louis at one time
Berry Sr. (foreground on the far right) shown at the family’s grocery store, The Booker T. Washington Grocery Store
Gordy, looking like the boss he was and still is
I love this picture of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye
Here’s the contract Berry Jr. had to sign with the Ber-Berry Co-Op in order to receive his $800 investment
How ingenious to use a homemade echo chamber cut into the attic in order to create acoustics!
Stevie Wonder graduating from high school
Berry Gordy came up with the idea of an assembly line of musicians while he was working at the Ford automotive plant as a young man. Each artist would receive music theory training, etiquette training, practice choreography, and more
How ingenious of Gordy to also record and sell famous and influential speeches
I love this photograph of Marvin Gaye
Michael Jackson donated his fedora and glove from his performance of “Billie Jean” at Motown’s 25th Anniversary concert to the museum. That was the first time he’d publicly perform the moonwalk.
Berry Gordy Jr. and his wife Raynoma “Ray” Mayberry Liles Gordy and son Kerry Gordy lived above the recording studio in the Hitsville, U.S.A. building from 1959-1962
Kerry Gordy’s crib in the living room of the apartment
The Gordys’ dining room
A small TV room in the apartment
This is the front desk at Hitsville, U.S.A. At one time, Martha Reeves worked as the receptionist
The original typewriter and three dedicated phone lines to the Motown offices
I believe this was originally Mr. Gordy’s office
Just a few of Motown’s vast collection of gold records
Employees and artists at Motown used to leave dimes atop the candy machine for eleven-year-old Stevie Wonder to find and use to purchase his favorite candy bar, Baby Ruth
Time cards were required for the employees
This room held the studio’s masters
Mr. Gordy has since removed the original masters and secured them away in an undisclosed location
The control room for Studio A
Those operating the control room would dance around so much during the recording sessions, they eventually wore down the flooring in the room
The iconic Studio A and its Steinway grand piano (which was completely restored following a donation by Sir Paul McCartney)
Gordy watching a young Diana Ross record vocals
The original members of the Temptations as they recorded in Studio A
Mr. Stevie Wonder and The Funk Brothers
Looking into the control room from Studio A
Berry Gordy standing with Michael Jackson
Ground zero for some of the best and earliest R&B and soul music!

As we neared the end of the tour, I asked our guide why Motown had suddenly changed its policy against photographing anywhere but in Studio A.

She graciously explained that up until recently, it was very difficult for them to coordinate with all of the photographed artists and original owners of the artifacts to approve public photography. But with all the uncertainty and civil unrest going on this year, the artists (or their estates, for those who have crossed over) have decided to drop the issue and allow Motown museum patrons the privilege of taking photographs throughout the tour. I was so grateful for the opportunity to do so. Honestly, I think it’s a huge selling point for visiting the museum right now!

To anyone reading who’s yet to visit Motown, I hope you’ve gotten a taste for the magic that is Hitsville, U.S.A. and the Jobete Publishing Office.

I get emotional and inspired every time I step inside the two buildings. When you’re standing exactly where Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Martha Reeves, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, and so many others stood, you can’t help but feel as if you’re on hallowed ground.

Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no COVID strong enough to keep me from you, Motown!

Love,

Kate

4 thoughts on “Ain’t No COVID Strong Enough to Keep Me From You, Motown!

  1. Hi Kate Sol glad you had such a wonderful visit with your Mom and DadHope to see you if you come to RI to visit.All is well here and looks like you are doing well.Love Aunt Barbara

    Liked by 1 person

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