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December 02, 2009 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2009-12-02

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Th .ihgnDiy-W dnsaDcm e ,20

A lesson from Berry Gordy

s I made my way from Ann
Arbor to Detroit, I was
expecting to get up close
and personal with Motown his-
tory. With the other members my
project group in CAAS 458: The
Music of Motown, I was headed
to a salon on West Grand Boule-
vard to conduct an interview with
Mary E. Moore, an 81-year-old
beautician who had styled the hair
of David Ruffins of The Tempta-
I just didn't know how close we
would actually get to that history.
The salon, Beauty Box, is on the
same block as the small house that
had served as the first base of oper-
ations for Motown Records. The
house, which Motown Records
founder Berry Gordy dubbed
"Hitsville USA," now houses the
Motown Historical Museum. Hav-
ing known the Gordy family dur-
ing the height of Motown, Moore
was sure to have a wealth of first-
hand accounts to share- with my
project group.
As we pulled up to Beauty Box,
we passed a film crew in front of
Hitsville USA. I wondered what
might be going on, but didn't think
much it. My uncle had told me
there is always something happen-
ing in front of the studio - if it isn't
a camera crew, then it's a group of
foreign tourists carrying the torch
of Motown fandom. With this
year being the 50th anniversary of
Motown, the production in front
of the building was more than
From page 7B
"You used to only be able to tell
. your four friends what weird thing
you had for breakfast, but now you
can put it on your Facebook and all
300 of your friends can see it," he
Resnick said it ultimately comes
down to personal choices and dif-
fering views on what is and isn't
appropriate to share with a wide
number of people. I
"If you complain about a cus-
tumer service problem and make
a big stink about it and get a large
audience, sometimes the company
notices and fixes the problem," he

Before visiting Moore, my group
and I decided to tour Hitsville to
see what we could learn from the
exhibits. But we didn't even have
to enter the house before a larger-
than-life spectacle stopped me in
mytracks. ItwasBerryGordy-the
man, the legend - standing at the
corner, surrounded by a posse. We
learned later that he had brought
the film crew for a documentary
he is making about Motown. All
I could do was stare as I tried to
reconcile my excitement with my
knowledge of his notorious career
of building musicians up just to
undercut them when they became
Snapping out of my daze, I
went inside to begin the tour in a
video room, where we watched a
montage of Motown artists dis-
cuss fond memories from their
early days. Our tour guide then
escorted the group upstairs and
started explaining how Gordy's
family experiences influenced
how he later managed Motown -
coming from a family of eight, he
learned to foster both communal
bonding and fierce competition
among his musicians.
We were upstairs for about five
minutes when the elevator door
opened. Gordy and his entou-
rage flooded out just feet from us.
One of my group members, Carol,
immediately introduced herself. I
followed suit, and as he took my
hand, Gordy said, "I know you
said. "On the other hand, a lot of
people would find out what your
custumer service problem was and
it may be embarrassing."
Steven Jackson, assistant pro-
fessor of information and com-
munication, agreed that the divide
between what is public and private
information on the Internet'is at a
"fairly unsettled point."
"I think it's really uneven," he
said. "You can certainly point to
examples like listservs or Face-
book sites and other things like
that that share things we would
have traditionally thought of as
Jackson said those shifting
expectations are leading to much

weren't born when this music was
made." The guided tour was over
for me then. All I wanted to do was
listen to the man responsible for
delivering a litany of songs that
crafted my musical tastes when I
was just a child. I wanted to simply
observe this historic figure.
I stood there, struck with the
realization that I was receiving
history from the original sources
A surprise
meeting with the
Motown mogul
left a lasting
(albeit, a slightly skewed ver-
sion). Radiating passionately as
he described his company, Gordy
maintained that above all else,
Motown was built on the love and
compassion that he had first expe-
rienced in his own family. He con-
tinued, saying, "My goal was not
just fame for the artists but lon-
gevity." This priority comes across
in the prolific careers of his clas-
sic groups: The Temptations, The
Four Tops, The Supremes and The
Miracles. This success could only
happen because the song lyrics
more sophisticated options for
sharing and privacy on network-
ing sites.
"The broad direction is that a lot
of media like Facebook, social net-
working sites, and even things like
listservs are going to have a finer
grain of contextual control," he
said. "Not all public and not all pri-
vate. I think people will be able to
choose which groups or particular
audience they want to share some
bit of information with."
Untilithe University adopts some
Facebook-style sharing controls
and filters for its e-mail system,
though, don't be surprised that
"reply all" will probably continue
to cause a fracas in your inbox.

were so simple and the rhythms
so crisp and moving. Beyond that,
Motown music was the "sound of
young America."
Listening to all of this, I recog-
nized a lot of information I had
learned from class and elsewhere.
But in that moment, everything
held more weight. Either I felt this
way because of the serendipity
oozing out of this chance meeting,
or Gordy was, honestly, being sin-
cere. What really affected me was
when Gordy gave reasons for his
success: "I was happy with myself.
I've been happy since I was an
eight-year-old little boy," he said.
At that point, I was suddenly
overcome by emotion. I was moved
by his frankness, but also by the
stark contrast between his per-
spective of himself and Motown
and common history's view of his
career. Even today, Gordy's noto-
riety still reminds us of his disre-
gard for copyright or intellectual
property and his refusal to credit
and regularly pay jazz musicians.
But I found it powerful that
Gordy had the ability to set aside
what other people thought of him
and still carry on. He doesn't see
the Berry Gordy paradox. When
he said that being happy with one-
self is all that matters, he meant it
as his life's code. It seems that, as
human beings, we tend to associ-
ate complexity with worth - the
more complex something is, the
more we value it. But here was a
pioneer of American music telling

me that Motown was derived from
pure, sweet, personal satisfac-
tion. Motown itself is not overly
simplistic, but its lyrics allowed
the Motown sound to be univer-
sal, reaching both white and black
This quality is the reason
Motown still reaches a broad audi-
ence, even ones that are removed
from any historical or cultural
connection of the times. That's one
of the reasons why foreign tourists
march up to Hitsville's doorstep
each year.
Especially in academic-minded
settings, we are constantly evalu-
ated on what we are lackingso that
we can fill that void and move on to
addressing another one. It is this
very idea of constant striving that
made me so emotional in Gordy's
I rarely concentrate on the pres-
ent. The simplicity of being happy
with oneself is so obvious in my
mind, yet it is a constant chal-
lenge. Personal improvement and
self-satisfaction are not mutually
exclusive - allowing yourself to
be happy with what you have done
and with who you are only allows
your potential to flourish. That
was an idea reiterated by the great
Berry Gordy, who told us as we left
Hitsville USA: "Keep yourself sim-
ply. Keep yourself simply because
the world is complex."
-Chanel Von Habsburg-
Lothringen is a senior photo editor

E-mail suggestions for new rules
to vosgercj@umich.edu

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