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April 01, 2004


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LKS,in the 50s Berry wrote a tune for Jackie Wilson "lonely tear drops" and a tune he collaborated with one William Robinson(smokey)call "shop around".As the story goes Berry and Smoky was geek because their records were playing all over town and also in Chicago ,Gary ,and New York;when the royalty check arrive they new the bigtime was around the corner.The check was for 4.50,Berry told Smoky we need a publishing company,hence the Birth of Jobette and Tamala publishing.

Ward Bell

Where is the bad news in this story?

In the end, Barry has received almost a quarter of a billion dollars for the company and now the catalog is in the hands of someone who can actually promote the old music.


how old is gordy? how rich was he before he sold off the ranch?

how much does it take to properly market something like "what's going on?" anyway?

Ward Bell

As the article states, Gordy is old enough to have to start to worry about estate taxes and how they are paid. And, he is apparently rich enough as well -- again, if we are to believe the story which claims that he has sold off this company in pieces totalling $250 million.

It's the other properties that take deep pockets to promote and it takes cash and not just wealth (as measured by stocks or company value).

The question remains: what is the bad news?


I believe that African American cultural capital should remain in the hands of African Americans and the institutions they run. Any time a piece of wealth like the motown collection gets sold to non-blacks, we all lose.

Ward Bell

I disagree.

We lose if those bits of culture are hidden away and not accessible, but ownership of the rights to the materials doesn't directly cause loss. I seriously doubt that anyone is going to spend that kind of money and take away access.

Further, since Gordy was selling the last 20%, the asset was gone anyways.

Lester Spence

How does culture work here Ward? It informs ideas and opinions, it creates wealth, it creates income. Ownership of the rights to the materials has a direct impact on all of the above. I don't support reparations...but I'm not sure it would even be necessary if for example the city of Detroit owned the Motown vault.

Ward Bell

I'm not sure how culture creates wealth and income, but I will go along with the idea that culture informs ideas and opinions. The cultural content of Motown's vault is not likely to be impacted by ownership -- at least as I see it. What changes, per se? If, for example, the buyer took the materials and held them is some private collection and only allowed a few chosen friends access, you might have a point.

A case in point: in the go-go days of a strong Japanese econonmy, collectors snapped up some famous paintings and hung them in their private museums. You could say that the cultural content of those paintings was impacted by that ownership.

Nothing in this case suggests that sort of outcome. In fact, since the purchaser has owned 80% of the company before buying this last 20%, it would seem that their interests are clear: they see value in this asset.

While highly unlikely, the City of Detroit could have purchased the Vault from Gordy. In many ways, Gordy's wealth is not realized until he sells and his ability to squeese an income stream out of the assets was apparently small.

I guess what sort of bugs me, Lester, is your headline: "Motown sells out." You and I both know that those words have specific meanings and connotations in our community. Gordy is a "sellout?" I don't think so: Gordy executed a strategy whereby he and his heirs can convert an asset to cash -- which is how you really achieve wealth.

The ideas and concepts that we can associate with the Motown era live on -- in those of us who were alive and participated and in historical records. The songs live on in remixes and reissues and derivative works. The concept that was Motown lives and we see it in some of the hip-hop empires that have come to pass.

Nobody's lost anything yet. Nothing's been sold out.


for you the primary purpose of pop culture for consumers is enjoyment. and it is an important purpose. we would be losing something if we couldn't hear Marvin Gaye.

this is my argument. the works of marvin gaye and others are increasingly gobbled up by multinationals with little to no african american ownership. if this continues then the wealth those pieces generate are not going to filter back to the very culture responsible for these works in the first place. ownership matters. everytime a song is played on the radio, or used in a commercial, someone gets a check. everytime someone NEEDS a song to promote an image or an idea, someone gets a call. ownership matters. black cultural production does not exist in a void.

Ward Bell

We are not on the same page when it comes to looking at economic and cultural issues in tandem. Part of the problem probably lies in what you call "filter back to the culture responsible for the works." They are two separate realms and the connections are tenuous, at best.

First, on the econ side: Gordy owned an asset that he was unable to derive big bucks from (in a cashflow sense). For whatever reasons, Gordy was unable to move the vault of music in a way that maximized his wealth accumulation. So he started selling off pieces of that property to someone who could.

Two things happen with those transactions: Gordy gets cash; the folks buying the goods are going to attempt to maximize their return on their investment.

From a strict economic point of view, Gordy's cash or Gordy's asset unrealized do not directly "filter down" to the culture. Gordy could, obviously, invest his money in ventures that have cultural significance -- don't know if he did or didn't. But I do know this: the $250 million he was able to get out of the assets was more than he was getting from the assets so there is a net gain if you are saying that the culture would gain if he held on to them.

So a multinational now owns the asset (interestingly, you seem "down" on multinationals when, in some respects, these multinationals provide a means for AAs to accumulate wealth: Remember Reginald Lewis (I think that was his name), the brother that built up the assets of what was Beatrice before he died. Multinational company was his.)

When you conflate cultural production in this picture, you cross out of capitalistic economics into something else. Perhaps that is your point? You want the culture to retain the asset and somehow derive wealth from it. Can't happen under capitalism and I'm not certain it is even viable under some sort of collective economic concept -- unless you are talking about individual, altruistic moves that individuals might make: put something bigger back for what they have taken out?

So, was Motown ever a collective AA asset? Culturally, you could argue yes; financially, not really. There was obviously some money that flowed into AA communities as a result of Motown, but the bulk of the flow was outwards. And very little flows in from residuals and license fees when old stuff is played today.

Danny Nots  Belgien

Hallo,sorry das ich Sie stren mu,aber ich suche
schon seit langerzeit:
50 years Live at the Apollo Theatre +- 4 Hours
the best Soul revouw. with the battle of the groups,Old Soul Singers,all the Tepp dancers,
Please let your hard go and Help me please!!
This was a show of the 70er or 80er,if you can,
or give me a Adress or mail,iam seen ties film
on TV in The States!!
aiam 53 Years and my heald is not to good!
Soplease help me!!

Kind regards


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