MOTOWN'S HITSVILLE USA: MORE THAN JUST A MUSEUM
"Motown was about music for all people - white and black, blue and green, cops and robbers. I was reluctant to have our music alienate anyone." - Berry Gordy
Having grown up in the metro Detroit area, I had heard of the Hitsville museum but never visited. Hitsville is the original home of Motown Records and the very famous Studio A. Most of the original Motown artist recorded there. Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson Five, just to name a few.
These and countless other international stars got their start on their road to fame in this small unassuming converted house on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit less than 5 miles from downtown. I like Motown music, but I am a rocker at heart.
However, one of my son's biggest idols is Stevie Wonder, so we decided to take him on a field trip to Hitsville USA. To my surprise the visit turned out to be far beyond my expectations. The feelings that transpired when I walked through the doors are difficult to describe. Reading about it just doesn't do justice to this Detroit gem.
The admission for the one and a half hour tour was only $10.00. The tour sparked the realization of the immense impact that Hitsville and Motown Records had on the world. We are talking about the late 1950's and 60's, during a time of a segregated society when Barry Gordy, an African American man, left his secure job at Ford Motor Company to pursue his dream. He borrowed $800 to start his recording studio / label.
Within six years, his company was generating $20,000,000 per year. That in itself is amazing. What business even today has that kind of growth rate? At that time, Barry Gordy's company became the largest African American company in the country and according to some accounts, the largest in the world. When we toured the house, we stood in the small recording room that produced over 100 top 10 hits within 10 years.
Today, the museum represents so much more then just great music. People come from all over the world to visit including many famous musicians of all genres, such as Paul McCartney, who claimed to be "moved by the energy in the building."
The visit to Hitsville USA was a completely different experience for me than for my son who is an aspiring singer. He was fascinated with everything he learned about Stevie Wonder and the other great musicians. For me, I learned so much about what it means to have the faith, courage and drive to pursue a dream.
The Hitsville USA museum isn't only for Motown lovers. This landmark represents so much more. This is a place for all people who need to be reminded that their daydreams about leaving their jobs during insecure times to pursue a passion can become a reality.
This is a place for musicians of all genres. It is a place of musical inspiration to those who put in endless hours into the labor of love composing the right blend of lyrics and melodies with the goal of having their songs become hits.
This is a place for all those people who have experienced struggles and setbacks and need to be reminded of what faith, courage and drive is all about as they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and continue on.
Because the experience was so inspiring to me and also because I’m sure I missed some things, I plan to revisit Hitsville USA museum in the near future. I also plan to bring some friends along to share the experience. At some point I would love to meet the man who represents so much to all types of people, "white and black, blue and green, cops and robbers”~ Mr. Berry Gordy.