Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WonderTeam. WonderTeam Wonders, “Where is Motown?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WonderTeam!

Do you ever listen to the “oldies” stations on the radio? Maybe you have family members who love them. If you listen closely, you might be surprised to hear songs that you already know.

There’s a reason many of these “oldies” are called classics. They’re great songs that never grow old! In fact, many artists recycle the “oldies” today. They use them as samples or background music for their own hit records.

Many of these classic “oldies” from the 1960s were produced by a record company called Motown Records. Motown was started by Berry Gordy, Jr., on January 12, 1959.

Where did Motown’s name come from? It was founded in Detroit, Michigan. At that time, Detroit was the home of the biggest automobile makers in America. Many people called Detroit “Motor Town.” That’s why Gordy named his company “Motown.”

Motown started at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States. It was owned by and focused on African-American artists, and its music was loved by people of all races. The company made hit records at an amazing pace. In fact, Gordy placed a sign above the front windows of Motown’s headquarters that read “Hitsville, U.S.A."

During the 1960s, Motown produced many hit singles. It worked with a wide variety of artists. A few of its most well-known artists included The TemptationsDiana Ross and the Supremes, and The Jackson 5. The company also worked with Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.

The “Motown Sound” was a simple formula. It relied on good songwriting and great melodies. Much of the music involved tambourines, hand claps, horns, and rhythmic drum and bass lines. The harmonies between the lead and backup singers were also central to the sound. 

In 1988, Gordy sold Motown to MCA Records. Today, the company is owned by Universal Music Group. It may have left Detroit, but Motown didn’t stop producing hit music. Many Motown classics still sound fresh today.

If you don’t listen to many “oldies,” maybe you should give it a try! You may just find that the Motown sound moves you, too. 

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.4

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