Few music moguls have had as lasting an effect on popular culture as Motown founder Berry Gordy, whose accomplishments have earned him the Pioneer Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Gordy will receive the award at the group’s induction dinner June 13th in New York.
“Berry Gordy is an innovator and a visionary,” Jimmy Webb, chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, said in a statement announcing the honor. “Yes, he created a label but more than that, he created a genre. Think about it, he pioneered a marketplace for African-American artistry and then he invited the world in to enjoy it. Berry was way ahead of his time; his young and immaculately groomed and dressed artists were among the first to receive media training. Berry Gordy and the Motown sound are essential to the American music story.”
Gordy, a songwriter, producer and entrepreneur, founded Tamla Records in Detroit in 1959, which grew into Motown. He built the label into a music empire that launched the careers of stars including Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5.
The Pioneer Award is the latest in a long line of honors for Gordy, including an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, the President’s Merit Award from the Grammys in 2008 and a “Salute to Motown” evening at the White House in 2011. Gordy is also the subject of Motown: The Musical, a new Broadway production based on his life. Preview performances began this week, with an official opening to follow on April 14th.
Gordy will be the second recipient of the Pioneer Award, which was established in 2012 to recognize the creators of musical bodies of work that have had a major influence on subsequent generations of songwriters. Woody Guthrie received the first award last year.