WhatsOnStage Logo
Theatre News

Berry Gordy: I set Motown up with only $800

At the launch of ''Motown the Musical'' yesterday, legendary producer Berry Gordy revealed some of his secrets

WhatsOnStage logo

Legendary record producer and songwriter Berry Gordy was in London yesterday evening to launch the UK premiere of the Broadway musical Motown The Musical.

Gordy shared the stage with director Charles Randolph-Wright and producer Kevin McCollum while Lenny Henry interviewed him about his past.

The 85-year-old explained how he had set up his first record label up in 1959 with the help of $800, donated from his family. He had an "epiphany" one day in the gym and decided to switch, aged 19, from being a boxer, to being a record producer: ''...the fighters I saw looked 50 but they were 23, the musicians looked 23 but they were 50. That was the day I made the decision."

"I wanted to tell the story of what Motown was about," Gordy explained to an audience of people from the theatre industry about why he wanted to do Motown The Musical.

"I was a failure of everything until I was 29," Gordy said, and explained how his first obstacle was to get "white DJs to play black music."

Motown The Musical follows the story of Gordy and the artists and musicians he has worked with since the Fifties, which include Smokey Robinson, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5. "It was a family from day one," Gordy said yesterday.

The show will squeeze 50 of the classic Motown songs into the two hour production. "When I first got the script I thought it was going to be Nicholas Nickleby. Four whole evenings of music," joked Randolph-Wright.

The UK cast will include Cedric Neal as Berry Gordy and Lucy St Louis as Diana Ross. "[Motown] has had a love affair with the UK since we started," Gordy said.

Motown The Musical opens at the Shaftesbury Theatre 11 February 2016.