Nelson George, author of a 1984 best-selling paperback on Michael Jackson, stretches out considerably in this well-researched, if often matter-of-fact history of Motown Records, the Detroit-spawned label that reshaped American pop music in the 1960s and grew into the largest black-owned company in the country. The outline of Motown founder Berry Gordy's story is well known: While battling for economic survival against better-financed major labels, Gordy not only oversaw the hits of such stars as Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder, but also virtually ran their lives. He eventually expanded the company into movies and TV, though losing much of the early Motown innocence and "family atmosphere" in the process. In retelling the story, George adds interesting looks at how the Motown system worked and offers especially valuable insights into the determination and character of the Gordy family. But the absence of Gordy's own voice (he refused to be interviewed) causes the book to fall far short of definitive. George has provided good background, but the story remains to be told.
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