Then and Now: Label swapping

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The Independent Online
1963: Berry Gordy's new Motown record label has established itself with a string of black dance hits. The company would launch Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and the Supremes and Stevie Wonder.

'Looking back today, most black Motown veterans remember this period as a special golden time of laughing, of drinking - and of a warm feeling of blackness enveloping the company. Berry, however, had already learned a very valuable lesson about American business: his black enterprise needed whites inside it to prosper. Because of Berry's skin colour, some may have romanticised his motives, but only if they misread his message. He was preaching success in 1963, not black success. Part of the Motown mystique has been that it was black-owned. It was, however, never entirely black- operated.

'First of all, I make the money, it's my money,' Berry once said to a black reporter who asked him why he hired whites. 'I do what I want with it. But black people have shown a lack of understanding of what I'm doing as a general market businessman. They say 'Why do you hire this white man, or why this or why that?' Because this white man can do what I've hired him for better than I can do it.' ' (Where Did our Love Go?: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound, by Nelson George, Omnibus Press)

August 1993: Dutch record company PolyGram pays dollars 301m ( pounds 205m) for Motown, which Gordy had sold to Boston Ventures and MCA in 1988. However, his successful Jobete label will get the lion's share of revenues from the use of Motown's 1960s hits.

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