Motown: The music that changed America
On 12 January 1959, the music sensation that changed America C and the world beyond it C was set in motion. Detroit-born 29-year-old Berry Gordy founded Tamla Records with an $800 loan from his family’s collective savings. By the following year, he’d merge this into the Motown Record Corporation: an independent empire that would seal its genuinely iconic status, introducing legends including The Jackson 5; Diana Ross and The Supremes; Stevie Wonder; Smokey Robinson; Marvin Gaye; Martha and The Vandellas; The Commodores and many others among its hundreds of signings.
1959年1月12日，改变了美国，乃至全世界的音乐重头戏拉开帷幕。时年29岁的底特律人戈迪（Berry Gordy）从家里借了800美元，创立了塔姆拉唱片公司（Tamla Records）。次年，他将塔姆拉并入摩城唱片公司（Motown Record Corporation），一个将会拥有绝对标志性地位的独立帝国，签约了数百位传奇歌手和乐队，包括杰克逊五兄弟（The Jackson 5）、戴安娜・罗斯（Diana Ross）与至上女声组合（The Supremes）、史蒂维・旺德（Steve Wonder）、史摩基・罗宾逊（Smokey Robinson）、马文・盖伊（Marvin Gaye）、玛尔塔和范德拉斯女声组合（Martha and The Vandellas），以及海军准将合唱团（Commodores）。
Sixty years on, Motown’s classic catalogue remains ubiquitous and influential: forming a blueprint for modern soul and pop successes, from girl groups to hit singer-songwriters; sampled on countless hip hop and dance anthems and covered by acts of every genre. On its anniversary, the music is celebrated in the book Motown: The Sound of Young America by Adam White with Barney Ales (Thames & Hudson) C filled with rarely seen and previously unpublished photos.
六十年后的今天，摩城的经典曲目仍然随处可见，影响依旧：从女子组合到大热的创作型歌手，摩城为灵魂乐及流行乐勾勒出成功的蓝图。它还尝试了各种嘻哈和舞曲音乐，作品在各类表演中被翻唱。在摩城纪念日之际，Thames & Hudson出版社出版了由亚当・怀特（Adam White）和巴尼・阿莱斯（Barney Ales）合著的《摩城：年轻美国的声音》（Motown: The Sound of Young America）一书，纪念摩城音乐。书中收录了大量罕见的、此前未公开过的照片。
The ‘Motown Sound’ is unmistakeable for its glorious melodies and killer hooks; the Motown spirit C as embodied by the vivacious, tenacious Gordy himself (now 89) C is exceptional, even if the label is no longer independent (it’s currently part of Universal Records). Motown’s name was rooted in industry and community: a nod to the ‘Motor Town’ nickname of its native city. Prior to founding the label, Gordy had also worked on production lines at the Lincoln-Mercury car plant. He set up the label’s base in a modest two-storey house at 2648 West Grand Boulevard, also known as Hitsville USA.
“摩城之音”的风格明显，旋律欢快非常抓人。摩城现在已不是一家独立的唱片公司，已被环球唱片（Universal Records）收入麾中，但摩城精神依旧无与伦比。活泼而又坚韧的戈迪现已89岁，本人就是摩城精神的代表。摩城的名字源于工业和社会，是向所诞生城市的别名“汽车城”（Motor Town）致敬（底特律被称为“汽车城”）。在创立摩城之前，戈迪还在林肯水星汽车的生产线上工作过。他将摩城总部设于西格兰特街2648号一栋不起眼的二层建筑里，又名美国金曲乌托邦（Hitsville USA）。
“The ‘Hitsville’ sign over the door let it be known that if you set foot inside you were expected to sing, dance, write, produce, sell or manage,” explained Gordy in his 1994 autobiography, To Be Loved. “That name kept our mission in focus.”
“门上‘金曲乌托邦’的牌子告诉我们，进了门就要唱歌、跳舞、写歌、制作、销售或是管理，”戈迪在1994年的自传《被爱》（To Be Loved）中写到。“这个名字让我们专注于自己的使命。”
Motown was always a serious business, fuelled by the sweetest sounds. Gordy’s musical vision was intensified after various thwarted ambitions; he’d previously launched an unsuccessful record store, and while he’d had some songwriting/producing success (penning Reet Petite among other tracks for Jackie Wilson), the returns were paltry. Before Motown, Gordy had signed deals for two singles by rising R&B stars The Miracles, featuring a young Smokey Robinson C only to receive a royalty cheque for just $3.19. Robinson reportedly told Gordy: “You might as well start your own record label; I don’t think you could do any worse than this.”
摩城旗下有很多好声音，生意一直做得很认真。戈迪的许多宏伟志向都以失败告终，但也拓宽了音乐视野。他开过一家不成功的唱片店，在写歌和制作上成功过（为杰克・威尔逊［Jackie Wilson］写过《Reet Petite》等歌曲），但回报甚微。在摩城之前，戈迪为R&B新星奇迹乐队（The Miracles，主推年轻时的罗宾逊）推出过两支单曲，但只收到了3.19美元的版税支票。据说罗宾逊曾对戈迪说：“你也可以自己开唱片公司，不会比这更糟了。”
The Miracles would become Motown’s first million-selling recording artists. The first of scores of Motown number one singles was delivered by teen girl group The Marvelettes: 1961’s Please Mr Postman had Gladys Horton on lead vocals and backing from Motown’s ultra-sharp house band The Funk Brothers (including Marvin Gaye on drums); like countless Motown gems, it would also inspire major cover versions C in this case, by the likes of The Beatles and The Carpenters.
后来，奇迹乐队成为摩城首个作品销量过百万的艺人。摩城的冠军单曲数不胜数，其中第一首是少女组合惊艳合唱团（The Marvelette）1961年发行的《Please Mr Postman》。歌曲由格拉迪斯・霍顿（Gladys Horton）担任主唱，和声是摩城旗下优秀的乐队放克兄弟（The Funk Brothers，盖伊是鼓手）。和摩城无数的优秀作品一样，这首歌之后也被很多人翻唱，譬如甲壳虫乐队（The Beatles）和卡朋特乐队（The Carpenters）。
Easy as 1-2-3
By 1967, Motown’s success was booming; Fortune magazine ran a feature about “The Motown Sound of Money”, with writer Stanley H Brown highlighting “Gordy’s ability to build and direct a highly sophisticated enterprise… to release hit records almost as a matter of course, and to do the job in a firm, businesslike manner without interfering with the creative flow.”
到了1967年，摩城可谓功成连连：《财富》杂志（Fortune）刊登了以《摩城的金钱之音》（The Motown Sound of Money）为题的专题报道，作者斯坦利・布朗（Stanley H Brown）着重写道，“戈迪创建并领导一家高度复杂公司的能力……发行起畅销唱片来易如反掌，完全是开公司做生意的手法却又不会干预创作”。
Motown was also powerfully significant as a black-owned corporation employing multi-racial staff within its label teams; in an era when America was undeniably divided and the mainstream was an exclusionary zone (in 1967, the Detroit riots also erupted in response to police raids in black neighbourhoods), Hitsville produced music as a vital, unifying life force.
“I wanted songs for the whites, blacks, the Jews, Gentiles… I wanted everybody to enjoy my music,” Gordy told The Telegraph newspaper in 2016. This might have been savvy attitude from a seasoned entrepreneur who fashioned Motown as “the sound of young America” C but it was also key to why the label’s spirit was so ground-breaking. Its musical themes were instantly relatable (Gordy would also describe the Motown sound as “rats, roaches, soul, guts and love”), and its songs demanded universal audiences.
Even the Motown production philosophy had a ring to it (“KISS C Keep It Simple, Stupid”); in fact, every detail was fine-tuned, from the songwriting teams such as powerhouse trio Holland-Dozier-Holland (Heat Wave; Where Did Our Love Go; Stop! In The Name Of Love; Baby Love) and the sublime partnership of Ashford and Simpson (Ain’t No Mountain High Enough; You’re All I Need To Get By) to the moves (thanks to “finishing school” teacher Maxine Powell and choreographer Cholly Atkins) that gave its talented artists such distinctive poise. The joyous immediacy of the songs also had a galvanising effect, as vocalist Martha Reeves recalls in Susan Whitall’s book, Women Of Motown:
就连摩城的音乐制作哲学也有个名字――KISS（保持简单和愚蠢，是英文Keep It Simple, Stupid的首字母缩写），但其实每一个细节都经过仔细推敲。譬如歌曲的创作团队，当中有创作力旺盛的三人组合霍兰-多泽-霍兰（Holland-Dozier-Holland）（作品包括《Heat Wave》、《Where Did Our Love Go》、《Stop! In The Name Of Love》和《Baby Love》），以及绝妙的夫妻档阿什福德（Ashford）与辛普森（Simpson）（作品包括《Ain't No Mountain High Enough》和《You're All I Need To Get By》）。动作也是精心设计的，摩城才华横溢的歌手们因此仪态出众（这多亏了“女子精修学校”的老师鲍威尔［Maxine Powell］和编舞阿特金斯［Cholly Atkins］）。歌曲让人一听就心情大好，也很激励人心。
“It was a beautiful feeling, when we were so full of hate and anger and everybody was so full of unrest, that we saw people actually join together, get out of their cars and dance to a song [Martha And The Vandellas’ 1964 smash hit Dancing In The Street] that meant we should rejoice… The Motown sound was a very big influence in the civil rights movement. It was not that we marched or paraded; we just promoted it through love.”
歌手玛尔塔・里夫斯（Martha Reeves）在苏珊・怀塔尔（Susan Whitall）的《摩城女性》（Women Of Motown）一书中回忆说：“那种感觉很美好，当大家满怀仇恨和愤怒，人人都焦虑不安时，我们看到人们真的聚在了一起，走下车随着音乐跳舞（伴着玛尔塔与范德拉斯1964年的大热歌曲《Dancing In The Street》，中文意为“在街上跳舞”，译者注），这首歌就是告诉大家要开心……摩城音乐在民权运动中影响很大。我们没有示威游行，只是用爱来促进民运。”
Motown would deliver more explicitly political anthems, too: notably Edwin Starr’s fiery 1970 classic War; its songwriters, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, would also make an evocative statement on The Temptations’ 1970 hit: Ball of Confusion (That’s what the World is Today): “Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration/ Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation”.
摩城之后还发行了政治意味更明显的歌曲，特别是1970年埃德温・斯塔尔（Edwin Starr）那首充满激情的经典作品《War》。这首歌的词曲作者惠特菲尔德（Norman Whitfield）和斯特朗（Barrett Strong）写给诱惑合唱团（The Temptations）1970年的大热歌曲《Ball of Confusion (That's what the World is Today) 》也很能引起情感共鸣，歌中写道：“种族隔离、决心、示威游行、融合/恶化、耻辱、对国家的义务”。
By this point, Motown’s global status was certified (see clips of a 1965 “Motown special” on British TV programme Ready, Steady, Go!, presented by Dusty Springfield, for a wonderful shot of its Transatlantic frisson). In the early 1970s, the corporation also shifted its HQ to LA (and began to produce some of its most innovative classics, including Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? and Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions albums), although Detroit’s original Hitsville building remains its spiritual home today, as the Motown Museum.
至此，摩城在全球的地位正式确立（1965年，斯普林菲尔德［Dusty Springfield］主持的英国电视节目《Ready, Steady, Go!》在特别节目中对大西洋彼岸的摩城进行了精彩介绍）。70年代初，摩城还将总部迁至洛杉矶（并制作出一系列极具创新精神的经典作品，包括盖伊的专辑《What 's Going On?》和旺德的专辑《Innervisions》），但底特律的金曲乌托邦仍是摩城的精神家园，现在那里成了摩城博物馆。
The music industry is not a naturally harmonious environment; tensions and rivalries bristled from Motown’s earliest breakthroughs and its “assembly line” work ethic was not for the faint-hearted. Marvin Gaye once wryly quipped: “It was a loving Gestapo C because Berry is a loving cat C but it was still the Gestapo.” By the 1980s, many of Motown’s legends had forged mega-success on other labels, yet there was also a “family reunion” quality when these stars regrouped in 1983 for a TV special to celebrate Motown’s 25th birthday: Yesterday, Today, Forever; this live show was where Michael Jackson debuted his signature move, the moonwalk.
音乐行业并非生来和谐：摩城早期的突破引发了压力和竞争，其“流水线”的运作方式也不适合心理素质差的人。盖伊曾经半讽刺半开玩笑地说：“摩城是个可爱的盖世太保，戈迪是只可爱的猫，那摩城也是盖世太保。”到了80年代，摩城的很多传奇人物都与其他唱片公司合作取得了巨大成功。但当1983年这些明星重聚一堂，参加电视特别节目《Yesterday, Today, Forever》庆祝摩城成立25周年时，还是有一种“家庭团聚”的感觉。迈克尔・杰克逊（Michael Jackson）就是在这个直播节目上首次展示了他的标志性动作――太空步。
Gordy sold his ownership in Motown in 1988, to major label MCA and an investment banking firm for $61million C noting that this was less than its full worth; indeed, five years later, Polygram would purchase Motown for $301million. By this point, the label’s chart domination had waned C but Gordy had forged an empire that was synonymous with soul music, and also transcended it; he’d faced high-profile objections from the likes of politician and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson when he first planned to sell Motown, because it evoked such an indomitable identity, achievement and pride.
It still does. In the 21st Century, passions still run high for classic Motown; the Obamas hosted a star-studded Motown Gala at the White House in 2011, and the former FLOTUS also recently uploaded a ‘Becoming Motown’ playlist to accompany her autobiography. Gordy’s own autobiography has formed the basis of a hit theatre production, Motown the Musical, launched on Broadway and currently in London’s West End and touring the UK.
这一点至今未变。在21世纪的今天，人们对经典的摩城音乐依然充满热情。2011年，奥巴马夫妇在白宫举办了一场众星云集的摩城庆典。前不久，这位美国前第一夫人还上传了一张名为《成为摩城》（Becoming Motown）的音乐播放列表，与她的自传一起播放。根据戈迪自传改编的音乐剧《摩城风云》（Motown the Musical）在百老汇上演并大获成功，该剧正在英国巡演，目前是在伦敦西区。
“Motown is almost more alive as an entity than it ever was before,” argues Adam Spiegel, British producer of Motown the Musical. “Its legacy is very apparent C this is music that’s played at every wedding, and in every shop and restaurant C and there are also millions of young people discovering its songs every day.
“It doesn’t matter where you go in the world; if you say the word ‘Motown’, people instinctively smile. There are almost no words that trigger the same international emotional response.”
Motown celebrations have their place in every element of pop culture, whether it’s major museum exhibitions (London’s V&A hosted a celebration of The Supremes in 2008) or new-gen entertainment, such as the recent Netflix kids’ animated series Motown Magic. At 60, the sound of young America retains its vitality C and its iridescent power.
There is something else that explains the enduring power of Motown. Gordy, recalling a tour of the American South, said that “despite the hostility and racism we faced, we knew we were bringing joy to people. The audiences were segregated. The venues had a rope down the middle of the audience separating blacks from whites, but soon the rope was gone and black kids and white kids were dancing together to the same music. It created a bond that echoed throughout the world.”