I was visiting my neighborhood library, the Hamilton Grange branch of the New York Public Library system, when I came across a flyer for an exhibit on Motown at the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture. It looked interesting so I planned to stop by and visit.
The exhibit, called Motown: The Truth Is A Hit, while not exhaustive, is a tribute to the Motown era and its connection to the history of black music from its roots in Africa to present day. “The truth is a hit” is a saying that has been attributed to its founder, Berry Gordy.
Motown’s legendary status came from its artists and their music which became the “voice of an entire generation.” Its influence on its contemporary artists of the time and the future generation of music cannot be underestimated. Its mainstream acceptance brought black music to the forefront in America in a way that had never been done before.
The exhibit pays tribute to the Motown era with rare pictures of its artists, actual copies of their vinyl albums and their album covers. There are mannequins wearing ensembles worn by the artists including a beautiful silver sequined gown that Diana Ross wore. There were life size images of the artists including Marvin Gaye in the famous picture of him in the rain wearing a black leather trench coat. An entire section of the gallery is dedicated to Motown’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. Included in the display is the actual album release of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Also included in the exhibit is a tribute to the Gordy family. Most people know Berry Gordy was the founder of Motown Records but many do not know what an integral part the Gordy family played to his success and their own business success before Motown Records. This section of the gallery gave a clear portrait of the Gordy family with family and professional photographs and newspaper clippings of articles about them before and after the founding of Motown Records.
While not an exhaustive collection, this exhibit was a wonderful tribute to Motown Records and its legacy. For a broader view, I will have to visit the world-famous Motown Museum in Detroit, Michigan.
Here’s to honoring more musical legacies…