Black ties and gowns filled a ballroom Saturday in a big-bucks salute to Detroit-style royalty — the King of Motown, the Queen of Soul and the Kid of Rock.
Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, along with Aretha Franklin, Kid Rock and Motown's original kid, Stevie Wonder, came to Motown's original hometown for the Motown 50 Golden Gala. The 50th-anniversary event, which fetched $350 and up for a ticket, was a fundraiser for the Motown Historical Museum. The museum was the original home of Motown Records Corp., which Gordy started with an $800 loan.
The event drew about 750 people and many of the big names and behind-the-scenes people from the label, which moved to Los Angeles in 1972. Detroit's output included scores of hits, including "My Girl" by The Temptations, "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye."The pleasure is mine to be here," Gordy said during a pre-concert reception. "I'm thrilled I got the nurturing and all of the things Detroit had to offer me. Motown could not have made it in any other city."
Gordy was joined on the red carpet earlier in the evening by local and national celebrities and dignitaries, including Otis Williams of the Temptations, which was on the bill; Claudette Robinson of the Miracles; the Rev. Jesse Jackson; comedian Sinbad, the event's host; and Detroit Mayor and former Detroit Pistons all-star Dave Bing. The musical mingling of classic Motown artists such as Wonder and The Temptations with non-Motown hometown heroes Franklin and Rock reveals the reverence for and relevance of the label.Kid Rock performed with Wonder on the Motown great's songs "Living For The City" and "Superstition," bringing many of the people in the crowd to their feet. The pair called up others for the finale — a funky, extended version of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours."Before taking the stage, Kid Rock called it a "career milestone." He said his mother, who was out of state, sent him a text message: "Who would have thought when we were partying in our barn, playing all those Motown records when you were a kid that you'd be playing the 50th gala?"
The gala is a regular event for the museum, but it took a higher profile this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the label's founding. Museum CEO Audley Smith said the facility wants to expand to hold thousands of artifacts and memorabilia that can't be displayed because of space, but he stressed the museum will maintain the integrity of the well-known Hitsville USA house on West Grand Boulevard. The gala also included special tributes to Motown alumni who have died, including Michael Jackson. Gordy, at Jackson's memorial service in July, talked about the 10-year-old prodigy he signed, calling him "the greatest entertainer that ever lived."Homecomings are rare these days for Gordy, who lives in California, but bonds remain: His sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, founded the museum now overseen by his great-niece, Robin Terry. He's also a premier sponsor of the gala.
President Barack Obama sent well wishes via videotape. He said Gordy's "music made history" and his record company "captured a truly American sound."Franklin sang a customized birthday ode to Gordy, who turns 80 on Nov. 28."Detroit, we've waited long enough — Berry's come home at last," she sang. Afterward, Franklin ushered Gordy to the stage, saying "he absolutely revolutionized the music industry, single-handedly."
He was presented a crystal plaque, a large cake and a mass serenade of "Happy Birthday."Gordy told the crowd he was inspired by his time spent on a Detroit auto factory floor to make a music company that was like "an assembly line" of talent. "That dream came true." Wonder told The Associated Press after the concert that being a part of Gordy's vision has been a blessing."I'm just very, very happy (for) that dream Berry had — him meeting me, hearing me, seeing me, that he saw fit for me to be a part of that dream that became reality."