Whenever the name Motown is mentioned, it conjures up images of exhilarating dance music from the 1960s that stirred the heart and soul of millions worldwide. The name belongs to one of the most successful black-owned American businesses ever.
Having its birthplace in Detroit, Michigan, the music incorporated rhythm and blues and soul elements.
Its throbbing beat was irresistible, drawing dancers on to dance floors and making hearts throb almost in unison to its infectious beat, wherever and whenever it was being played.
The Motown sound, as the music became to be known, derived its name from the town of its birth - Motortown, which was synonymous with Detroit, a city famous for its car manufacturing industry. The exploits and achievements of the Motown Recording Company have been immortalised on its Motown, Tamla, Gordy and Soul record labels.
In Jamaica, the Motown sound was particularly welcomed by music lovers and dance fanatics who found it a perfect complement to the country's own music.
It was the early 1960s and the Jamaican ska beat and the emerging rocksteady were in full swing with groups like The Wailers, The Maytals, Justin Hinds and the Dominoes, The Skatalites band, The Heptones, The Techniques, The Gaylads, The Melodians and others figuring prominently.
Motown, which has often been compared to Jamaica's Studio One, which produced most of the above-mentioned artistes, was noticeably permeated with vocal groups as well.
The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Marvelettes, Smoky Robinson and the Miracles, The Jackson Five, The Originals, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were but a few.
It was a copious and unprecedented array of artistes, not to mention their hits that left an indelible impression on the minds of the musically conscious.
Never before, and perhaps never again, will there be a music industry to boast the extravagances of Motown Records.
The Motown story is virtually the story of Berry Gordy Jr, who from boyhood, developed a penchant for songwriting. His first success as a songwriter, came in 1957 when he co-wrote Reet Petite for Jackie Wilson and followed up by doing the same on Wilson's To Be Loved, Lonely Teardrops, That's Why, and I'll Be Satisfied over the next two years.
Moving into music production shortly after, he discovered the rare talent of Smoky Robinson while he sung with his group, The Miracles at a Detroit talent show. Robinson possessed incredible songwriting and production skills which provided the springboard for the establishment of Gordy's Motown record label. Gordy originally wanted to call his label 'Tammy' after a Debbie Reynolds film, but learning that the name was already being used, opted for 'Tamla' which became his first label at 1719 Gladstone Street in Detroit.
Two bluesy pieces in 1959 by Marv Johnson, titled Come To Me and You Got What It Takes, were the first of note on that label, the latter becoming his first production to break into the pop top 10.
Prior to this, Gordy had a number of undistinguished recordings for other labels, before forming his second label 'Motown' in 1960.
Gordy actually built his label by shaping raw, undiscovered talent. The first of such acts was a local girl singing group, The Primettes, later known as the Supremes who auditioned in 1960, but owing to school obligations weren't signed until January 1961.
Quite significantly, in 1960 as well, Mary Wells, who had the popular duet Once Upon A Time with Marvin Gaye, was signed ahead of the Supremes late that year. She thus became the first real star for the label with a long string of pop hits.
The Supremes, however, with Diana Ross emerging as the star of a trio, completed by Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, was arguably the most popular group to have recorded for the label.
They created history by placing six consecutive number one singles on the US charts in a one-year period between 1964 and 1965. These were Where Did Our Love Go, Baby Love, Come See About Me, Stop In The Name Of Love, Back In My Arms Again and I Hear A Symphony.
All were immensely popular in Jamaica as well, dominating the local charts as well. Earlier in 1961, another female vocal group, the Marvelettes, led the way in the quest for No.1 positions at Motown, when they did so with Please Mr. Postman.
But who could ever forget the Temptations who scored their first hit for Motown in 1964, The Way You Do The Things You Do, written and produced by Smokey Robinson and led by Eddie Kendricks.
The following year saw the astonishingly gifted singer David Ruffin as lead vocalist, wrapping his throaty vocals around the bittersweet ballads My Girl, Since I Lost My Baby, I Wish It Would Rain and the soul screamers Ain't Too Proud To Beg and Beauty Is Only Skin Deep.
Ruffin inflicted one of the first instances of self-chastisement in song, when he wrote
'Build a statue, build it high so the world can see, and inscribe "The world's greatest fool" and name it after me'.
It was the perfect epitaph for a man who made a fool of himself through drugs.
The Four Tops took a different route to success than did most of their inexperienced labelmates, spending a decade together doing doo-wop recording before joining Motown in 1963 and recording Baby I Need Your Loving the following year.
By 1965 they shot Motown into perpetual prominence with the No. 1 songs I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) and The Same Old Song.
Junior Walker and the All Stars became members of the Motown family after the label they first recorded for became absorbed into Motown, while the Jackson Five were the youngest of the family.
Added to the plethora of groups that graced Motown were the solo acts that rank among the best in the world.
Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye were best remembered. Gaye, incidentally, had the privilege of recording with the top ladies at Motown - Diana Ross, Mary Wells, Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell.
CAPTION: Junior Walker, Motown recording artiste (left) and other members of his band "The All Stars" being greeted by local impressario Tony Cobb on their arrival at the Palisadoes airport. The famed saxophonist and his band gave two shows at the National Arena along with Nina Simone and local artistes.