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George Vlahakis

Charles E. Sykes

Last modified: Tuesday, June 25, 2002

IU receives book donation from Motown founder Berry Gordy for course on Motown

First course on history of "Detroit sound"

Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Record Corp., has donated 68 original copies of his autobiography, To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown (Warner Books, 1994), to Indiana University. The book is a required text for an IU course, "Motown," which focuses on the influential recording label in its golden age, from 1959 to 1972 in Detroit.

Gordy's donation will provide free textbooks for students enrolled in the course, the nation's first university course on the history of the "Detroit sound."

The course was developed and taught by Charles Sykes, administrative director of the IU African American Arts Institute. It delves deeply into the history, music, business and sociocultural context of the period in which young singers mostly from Detroit -- such as the Supremes, the Four Tops, the Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder -- became stars, and Motown became a household word.

Gordy's autobiography provides a valuable perspective on the Motown founder, whose skill at songwriting, business sense and knack for recognizing talent gave shape to the most successful black-owned company in the history of the recording industry. The Motown course gives IU students, most of whom were born after Motown's Detroit era, a special opportunity to connect with the Motown legacy. Gordy's donation will introduce them to the creator of that legacy.

IU also holds one of the country's few Motown collections, which is housed in its Archives of African American Music and Culture. The university also has developed ties with other Motown figures.

Alan Slutsky, author of Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson (Hal Leonard Publishing Corp., 1991), serves on the archives' national advisory board. Thomas "Beans" Bowles, a former musician and road manager with Motown, also was a board member. Johnny Griffith, a former Motown keyboardist who can be heard on recordings such as Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," has been a visiting director for the IU Soul Revue, a popular music ensemble, and has contributed memorabilia to the IU Motown Collection.

Another contributor is Maxine Powell, image specialist for Motown during the Detroit era, who has appeared as a guest lecturer in the Motown course.

The Motown course was offered this year during the first summer session. Students enrolled in the next offering of the course in summer 2003 will use the texts. It usually is one of the most popular courses offered and has a waiting list for students wishing to enroll.