Hitsville, USA

Download Audio
Covers of albums produced by Motown Records.
Clockwise from top, Motown albums by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, the Jackson 5, The Temptations, and Diana Ross & the Supremes.

And then came Motown: from a little house on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, hit after hit that soared across the color line and left a generation of young Americans — coast to coast, North and South, black and white — dancing to the same tunes.

The Supremes, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five. It was a pop music earthquake.

This hour, On Point: Motown, and its legacy, at 50.

You can join the conversation. What made the Motown sound work across the country? What made the country ready for Motown?Guests:

Joining us from New York is Lisa Robinson. She covers music and the music industry for Vanity Fair. Her feature story in the December issue, "It Happened in Hitsville," is an oral history of Motown.

Joining us in our studio is Tim Riley, a music critic and frequent contributor to PRI's “Here & Now.” His latest book is “Fever: How Rock Transformed Gender."

From Los Angeles, we're joined by Suzanne de Passe, the former president of Motown Productions. As creative assistant to Motown founder Berry Gordy, she discovered Jackson 5 and The Commodores. A winner of Emmy, Golden Globe, and Peabody awards, she's now CEO of de Passe Entertainment.

And from Amsterdam, we're joined by Raphael Saadiq, the singer, songwriter, and award-winning producer for artists such as Joss Stone, The Roots, and Snoop Dogg. His new album, "The Way I See It," is new material in the style of '60's soul. He describes it as "the culmination of a lifetime of experiences informed by the music I grew up on." He's currently on tour with John Legend.

More links:

Motown Records' Classic Motown site offers a rich interactive timeline covering the label's history and the 50th anniversary music video below:

The Hitsville U.S.A. building in Detroit, Michigan, which served as Motown's headquarters from 1959 until 1968:
Hitsville USA

This program aired on November 13, 2008.


More from On Point

Listen Live