Explore the roots of the Motown sound at Troy library

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 2, 2019

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TROY — Learn how the Motown sound came to be supreme when Joel Stone, the senior curator of the Detroit Historical Society, talks about how Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown Records, took Detroit’s musical assets and made history.

Stone will present “Roots of Music: Origins of the Motown Sound” at 7 p.m. April 8 at the Troy Public Library.

“It’s the 60th anniversary of Motown,” said adult reference librarian Donna Garbarino. “We want to celebrate the music that defines our area.”

“It’s (the program) not about the origins of Motown Records; it’s about the origins of the Motown sound,” Stone said.

“Detroit’s musical assets were just waiting for Berry Gordy Jr. to take advantage of,” Stone said.

Stone said people are most surprised to learn how diverse Detroit’s musical background is and how early it started.

He noted that there were three piano manufacturers and a number of musical instrument makers in Detroit in the years before Motown.

The different kinds of music from the ethnic groups in Detroit — Polish, Irish, German and French — along with Detroit’s rich jazz scene, which began in 1890; the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; and talented musicians in Detroit set up the type of sound that came out of Motown, Stone said.

“Gordy took full advantage of all of them,” Stone said. “There were lots and lots of influences.”

Stone will also discuss how World War II changed the way people listened to music.

“Before the war, people listened to regional, live music. After, it was records and radio.”

Technology evolved after the war because “the guys learned how to do electronics. Before, you had to go to an RCA Records or Columbia Records studio to record. Now you could set up a studio in a garage. It was a more democratic system.

“It all came together — the economics, the market, the talent,” Stone said.

Stone will “play a lot of tunes” during the program. “It’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Register for the program at troypl.org or by calling (248) 524-3534.

The Troy Public Library is located at 510 W. Big Beaver Road.

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