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22 Nov 2013

Motown, Philly, Back Again

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November 22, 2013 Category: Local Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: 2013 Marian Anderson Award recipient Motown founder Berry Gordy.

Using the music that made him famous, Philadelphia honored Motown founder Berry Gordy with the Marian Anderson Award.

By Denise Clay

During the early days of Motown Records, founder Berry Gordy had to do a lot of things himself.

Among those things was promote the records of artists like Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and others by going
around the country to get their records into the hands of local disc jockeys.

In some cases, he had to go the extra mile.

Or, in the case of Philadelphia radio icon Georgie Woods, he had to go to a street vendor.

“I was sitting there waiting [to see Woods] and he said he wanted a hot dog,” Gordy said. “I yelled, ‘I’ll get it!’ and I went out and got it. And then I
waited some more…”

All that waiting paid off when Woods put the song “Way Out There” on the turntable and gave it his okay, something that helped put the fledgling label on
the map.

“Philadelphia has always meant a lot to Motown,” he said. “You have always been supportive of us.”

That was just one of the stories that Gordy shared as he accepted the Marian Anderson Award on Tuesday night at the Kimmel Center. Gordy was feted with a
star-studded show that included host Chris Tucker, Robinson, Boyz II Men, Kool and the Gang, Cody Wise, and Brandon Victor Dixon, who portrays Gordy in the
Broadway hit, “Motown: The Musical”.

Gordy joins a group of luminaries that includes Oprah Winfrey, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Gere and Ruby Dee and Ozzie Davis
as recipients of the Marian Anderson Award. Over the last 15 years, the award has honored artists who use their talents not only to entertain, but also to
enrich society.

Among those who spoke about Gordy’s importance to modern music were Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, founders of Philadelphia International Records and musical
icons in their own right. One of their songs “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”, was covered by Diana Ross and the Supremes and The Temptations.

Gov. Ed Rendell, who created the Marian Anderson Awards when he was Mayor of Philadelphia, was also honored as part of the 15th anniversary celebration.

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