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Harlem "Motown" Exhibit Goes Behind the Music Label

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If you're a fan of classic soul music, a new exhibit opening up at the Schomburg Center in Harlem might just be for you. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.

You probably know the names: The Supremes, The Temptations, The Miracles, The Jackson Five. All of those chart topping acts were cultivated by Berry Gordy at Motown Records.

"Berry knew there were a lot of people out there who had the attitude that they didn't want to see blacks on TV or hear black music, Berry Gordy figured out how to do it, and he did it," said Schomburg Center Senior Researcher Christopher Moore.

And the results were the soundtrack to a turbulent era of change in American History, chronicled in the exhibit "Motown: The Truth is a Hit", at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

Gordy founded the label in Detroit in 1959 with $800 borrowed from his family.

"Mr. Gordy worked very well with youngsters, a young girl by the name of Diana Ross, a 12-year-old boy named Stevie Wonder, and a 9-year-old by the name of Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson gets a hit with a song called ABC," Moore said.

The exhibit looks at the groups that made the music, but also the times that coincided with the hits, recorded as the Civil Rights movement was picking up steam in the early and mid 1960s.

"The records that Berry Gordy produced also dealt with the Civil Rights movement and with the Civil Rights movement leaders, men like the leader Martin Luther King Junior, he's actually on a recording before the march on Washington," Moore said.

And at a time when some songs by black artists were re-recorded by white singers to gain more appeal, Motown put its young African American performers front and center and made music that remains enormously popular to this day.

"It's more than celebrity, it's history, it's culture, it is American history and we don't like to maybe admit it or see it but African American music is part of all of our lives," Moore said.

The exhibit runs through July 26.

For more information, visit schomburgcenter.org.

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