Berry Gordy had a Dream- to bring sweet soul music to the world. He knew he had a tough job ahead of him; there were many who wanted to see him fail, if only because of their prejudices. As a result, Berry expected much of the performers he turned into superstars.
Performers had to take charm classes and comport themselves well. Berry knew that the world would be harsh on his talent because some people would be looking for them to fail. As the motto on the albums stated- “It’s what’s in the grooves that counts.” By focusing on seemingly unrelated things, Mr. Gordy made sure that audiences paid attention to the music- and not “Race”.
It certainly wasn’t a coincidence that Billboard retired the term “Race Music” from its charts after the rise of Motown. Soul and rhythm & blues- the Motown Sound- would conquer the world.
By the late 1950’s, America started to see the writing on the wall. This “Rock and Roll”, which was tinged with “Race Music” was seemingly taking the country- and the world- by storm. What was a bigoted parent to do? Find an alternative to this music that had already been branded in racist, socialist terms. Enter the shameless Pat Boone.
Pat Boone came on the scene to turn this ‘devil’ music into something ‘good’ and ‘wholesome’. (Obviously these were early dog whistles) Pat Boone’s soulless covers of “Race Music” charted better than the original songs and often literally took money out of the pockets of the original performers. It was a ridiculous and shameful enterprise. History, however, relegated Mr. Boone’s albums to its pop culture dumpster, while the originals lived on.
At the dawn of the 1960’s, however, change was coming out of the Motor City. Detroit would soon be sending out its sweet, sweet music and kids of all races would be dancing in the Streets together. Even if they ha…
After World War II, returning soldiers were eager to establish themselves and move forward. Those who were members of minority groups wanted to enjoy the same rights and freedoms that they were allegedly fighting for. No longer content to stay in the shadows, they were eager to be represented in the media. The people who controlled things, however, wanted to see things go back to the way they were. At first, those who desired the status quo were winning. Though there were more opportunities for black performers, the status quo was forcing them to the margins where they had previously existed. While many clubs decided to book more “Race” music talent, they still often didn’t allow blacks in their clubs. While some black activists felt that such businesses should be boycotted by black talent, others felt that greater exposure to white audiences would normalize rhythm and blues. While white audiences did take a liking to this “Race” music, the benefits didn’t accrue to black talent; at l…
In the early twentieth century, Music was just as segregated as everything else. Instead of embracing all music regardless of who performed it, the major record labels separated out their acts between “regular” music and so-called “Race” music.
“Race” music was the catchall term used for music recorded by non-whites, though it was mostly affixed to music performed by black performers. Strict separation of the races was enforced by the record companies who never cross-marketed their content. While black performers weren’t completely unknown to white audiences, the black performers who were allowed to “cross over” were only permitted to perform as stereotypes or were thrust into the background as second fiddles behind white performers. At no time were they permitted to perform their so-called “Race” music, which was often depicted as being “tribal” or “lowly”.
This ridiculous and racist separation of music styles was no doubt intended to ensure that nightclubs and concerts remained segreg…