Yvonne Delaney Mitchell | 2/13/2014, 11:22 a.m.
So often we take for granted the iconic moments, people and events that have occurred in our lifetime. Quite often, it’s due to no fault of our own, as everyday life seems to get in the way.
Thankfully, there is always someone in the wings taking pictures, taking notes and saving the artifacts. Then there is someone else who has the talent to put it all together and voilà! History becomes embedded in our souls and indelible memories are created in our minds. And so, here we have “Motown: The Truth Is a Hit,” exhibit now showing at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
An eclectic crowd gathered the Schomburg for the opening reception and presentation to view the exhibit, which will be on display in the exhibition hall through July. Amidst the distinguished crowd was the man himself, Berry Gordy. It was truly an honor to be in his presence, as Motown was more than just his wonder child; Motown made a statement, inspired a movement and turned raw minerals into gems. With his artistry, foresight, ear for music and eye for talent, Gordy took Motown and its roster of stars to the heights, taking everyone who heard the music along with them.
Were you pining for a lost love when you heard Diana Ross and the Supremes sing, “Baby, baby, baby, where did our love go?” Were you wrapped up in young love when you heard Smokey Robinson sing, “Ooo Baby Baby”? Did you clap your hands just a little bit louder when Little Stevie Wonder told you to as he played that harmonica like a muse from above?
Who remembers seeing Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell at the Apollo? Didn’t Gaye forecast the future with “What’s Going On”? The tempting Temptations took you from “The Way You Do the Things You Do” through “Cloud Nine” and “Ball of Confusion,” and then brought it down “In a Mellow Mood” with “Hello Young Lovers” and “For Once In My Life.” Hey, wait a minute—Wonder sang that song too. So which way do you like it, fast or slow? Gordy did that for you too.
The exhibit features costumes, photos and an array of other memorabilia with a few 45 rpms thrown in and is a fascinating depiction of an era that was born out of a dream. Berry recalled during the presentation—which was also attended by Rhonda Ross, Diana Ross’ daughter—that he slept upstairs and the studio, appropriately called “Hitsville,” was downstairs. It was a dream that at first he thought was a “stupid idea,” but with passion and perseverance, he turned a “stupid idea,” into a reality. Gordy not only gave us great music, but a lesson to be learned.
Also taking the podium was Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg, who has stated, “It is impossible to tell the story of that era without the soundtrack of Motown.” Muhammad has taken the helm with a vengeance, promising to bring the Schomburg into the lives of people around the globe with its myriad of exhibits, lectures and resources.