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Lecture:  Gospel, Soul, and Motown





Thomas A. Dorsey



The Father of Gospel Music



Personal tragedy led Dorsey to leave secular music behind and began writing and recording what he called “gospel” music.

He was the first to use that term. His first wife, Nettie died in childbirth in 1932 along with his first son.

In his grief, he wrote his most famous song, one of the most famous of all gospel songs,

“Take My Hand, Precious Lord”  listen






Your text describes it well: 


Blues and Gospel are the parents of Soul


It is also described as a new gospel-based form of black rock


james brown 1003 Photo


James Brown



"The Hardest Working Man in Show Business"

(Athletic dancing and full energy stage show)

The Godfather of Soul


notice the 12-bar blues form in the song he sings


"I Got You" (1965) listen


We have a tendency to pidgeonhole musical styles for the purposes of description or association.
Here's a great example of what could happen if we could just get over ourselves!!
These 2 Great Musicians both passed away recently (Brown 2006, Pavarotti 2007)
James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti  watch




Aretha Franklin

(1942-     )

The Queen of Soul


The first woman inducted into the

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


"I Never Loved a Man" (1967)  watch


"R-E-S-P-E-C-T" (1967) listen

This was written and originally recorded by Otis Redding


Her father was a well known minister (Rev. C.L. Franklin) so Aretha grew up with gospel music.






Ray Charles

(1930- 2004)


"Georgia on my Mind" (1960)  watch

(became the official state song of Georgia)



"I've Got a Woman" (1954)  listen


Check the gospel roots of this song


"It Must Be Jesus" listen






Stax Records



In Memphis, blues and country mixed into rockabilly and then morphed into soul for a unique sound that came to be known as


the Stax style.  watch


They used horns which gave them a different sound


The studio band at Stax was Booker T. and the M.G.s


They had instrumental hits on their own, like "Green Onions"




Jim Stewart and his sister, Estelle Axton went into business together in 1960; hence, the name!






Booker T. & the MGs

"Green Onions" (1962)

They were the studio band at Stax


Wilson Pickett

"In the Midnight Hour" (1965) listen


Otis Redding

"Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" (1968) listen


Eddie Floyd


Sam and Dave

"Soul Man" (1967) listen


The Mar-Keys


Isaac Hayes

"Shaft" listen




Motown Records



Meanwhile, in Detroit, (Motor City, U.S.A.)

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Berry Gordy


Berry Gordy, Jr.

(1929 -      )

Founded Motown Records in 1959



His production style was formulaic:

Find the winning combination of songwriters, style and performers, and crank out the hits!

He exercised control over his artists even to hiring someone to teach them social etiquette and choreography.

Berry Gordy bought a house in Detroit and converted the downstairs into a record company and the basement into a recording studio.

He named it  Hitsville, USA

the "Motown Sound" was very successful and Motown Records became a powerhouse!

The height of Motown coincided with the popular era of the Beatles.

Here is a Timeline that shows the Motown story

(Be patient with loading)

There is also a movie called Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002) that you might find interesting!


The Marvelettes

"Mr. Postman" (1959)


The Vandellas

"Dancin' in the Streets" (1964)


The Four Tops

"Baby I Need Your Loving" (1964)


The Supremes

  "Come See About Me" (1964) listen

The Supremes had 5 consecutive #1 hits at the height of Beatlemania!


Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

"You've Really God a Hold on Me" (1962)


Marvin Gaye

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (1967) listen


Gladys Knight and the Pips

Midnight Train to Georgia (1973)


The Temptations

"My Girl" (1965) listen


Stevie Wonder

"Signed, Sealed, Delivered" (1970) listen


The Jackson Five

"I Want You Back" (1969)  watch

 What a talent Michael was . . and so early!


Race issues in popular music are often considered in terms of black and white.

When discussing Motown and Stax, there was black and blacker.

However, Motown was "black-owned" and Stax was "white-owned."  Almost everyone at Motown was black.  At Stax, there was much more integration, but the sound was less 'produced' and some might say more authentic.

Some considered that Motown had "sold out" to appeal to white audiences and that the black artists were not performing authentically.

What do you think?


What was the "Motown Sound"?

Here is a great link for an overview of this phenomenal music factory:

The Motown Story



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