19/10/2015 11:03 BST | Updated 18/10/2016 06:12 BST

Motown Maintains It's Musical Grip on Great Britain

Ever since Berry Gordy, Jr launched the renowned label in a small photographer's studio on 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, the music of Motown has come to play a significant part in our lives, in influencing popular British music and shaping a sound of hope for generations to come.

Founded in 1959, Motown's Hitzville USA studio was synonymous for launching the careers of established acts such as Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Diana Ross and The Supremes and The Four Tops amongst others.

Gordy tailored his sound using an $800 family loan, around his experience of working in Detroit's auto industry, creating the 'sound of Young America' in the process.

Perhaps the most significant and century defining role the music played was to bring black and white audiences together during a period of racial tensions, the sound would be played on pirate radio stations, where young people from a variety of backgrounds would tune in and listen.

The music took off in the UK and Northern Soul was born, clubs such as The Twisted Wheel in Manchester and The Golden Torch in Stoke-on-Trent became synonymous with playing Motown music, alongside soul, rhythm and blues, catering for a mass of young people dedicated to the sound.

The music has gone on to become a phenomenon, with Britain providing the most popular influence from this music, with artists such as Adele and John Newman conveying a sound distinctive to the Motown style and resembling the soulful voices that accompanied this period.

Just what made this music so popular? It's catchy and easy listening style brightened up an otherwise miserable post-war British youth, looking for outlets for their frustration. Britain at that time was going through a period of change, with British youth discovering new forms of liberating music, and Motown was at the forefront of that shift.

Motown the musical, coming to the West End stage at Shaftesbury Theatre in February 2016, illustrates the legacy the sound has left on British audiences since the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and Martha Reeves and the Vandalles first hit our stages in 1965.

The popularity of the sound endures today, with the songs of yesteryear being played across radio stations and classic stations, reminding us of the joy it brought to the UK when the music was first distributed on our shores.

We have seen the return of compilations with the release of Motown 7s Box Set , displaying 14 rare and unreleased vinyl gems. We have also seen Motown music become a source of inspiration for musicians in the form of Roddy Doyle's musical The Commitments, playing its final West End appearance at London's Palace Theatre on November 1st.

The legacy can also be heard in the music of numerous established artists including Taylor Swift and Coldplay amongst others and it continues to be reflected in the sounds of Leon Bridges and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

Let's hope the West End production does the Motown label justice for the pleasure it gave to millions, and the legacy of music it has preserved today.


Image credit: Ted Eytan