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Looking Back At 50 Years Of Motown Records

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Fifty years ago this January, a budding young songwriter and record producer named Berry Gordy founded a small record label in Detroit. Tamla Records soon became Motown Record Corporation, and Gordy's ear for talent — and his business savvy — helped make Motown one of the most successful record labels ever.

Talent agent Maxine Powell was also behind the scenes. When Gordy started Motown in January 1959, Powell was already operating a modeling and finishing school in Detroit. In 1964, Powell was tapped to assist in artist development, coaching singers such as Marvin Gaye and groups including The Temptations in the finer graces of performing both on and off stage. She spoke to Rebecca Roberts about her role at the company.

Critic and author Gary Graff has covered music in Detroit for many years. He notes that though the biggest Motown hits are widely known, many great records never saw the same level of success. He tells the stories behind six overlooked Motown singles for NPR Music. (Adapted from an interview with producer Zoe Chace.)

Copyright NPR 2016.

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