An Evening With Berry Gordy

Friday 11/16/2012

The Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

An Evening With Berry Gordy is a must see, live-to-tape one-on-one interview with Gordy conducted by award-winning journalist Gwen Ifill. Ifill’s interview will lead the audience through Gordy’s celebrated life as entrepreneur, songwriter, record producer, movie director and producer who has left an indelible influence on music and films both nationally and internationally. Performing one tribute song from Berry Gordy’s musical career, representing the old and new school Motown, are Valerie Simpson (Ashford & Simpson) and R & B musician KEM. Gordy’s son, Stefan Gordy -- known to the music world as Redfoo -- one-half of the hip-hop musical group, LMFAO, will be in attendance.

  Taped in November 2012 before a live theater audience at the Art Institute of Chicago, Gwen and Berry Gordy began their journey in Detroit where Gordy founded Motown Records in 1959 and grew the company into the most successful African American-owned enterprise in the United States. He is also credited with having created a new sound that changed popular music – the Motown Sound. While working on an assembly line at Ford Motor Company, Gordy began writing and selling songs that were recorded by several local artists. After borrowing $800 from his father, he formed his own company – Motown Records – that was headquartered in a house on Detroit’s West Grand Boulevard. In 1960, Motown released the song “Shop Around” written by Gordy’s longtime friend Smokey Robinson and recorded by The Miracles with Robinson on lead vocals. The song sold more than a million copies and helped to launch the most influential era in the history of popular music. Motown quickly turned out successive hits by signing and grooming recording artists such as Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, and Mary Wells.



The HistoryMakers staff has created a finding aid for this event. View/Download below: 

Finding Aid to The HistoryMakers - Special Collection An Evening With Berry Gordy (Chicago 2012).pdf


  Berry Gordy   

Berry Gordy founded and presided over the musical empire known as Motown. As a young black man working in often inhospitable times, Gordy endeavored to reach across the racial divide with music that could touch all people, regardless of the color of their skin. Under his tutelage, Motown became a model of black capitalism, pride and self-expression and a repository for some of the greatest talent ever assembled at one company. The list of artists who were discovered and thrived at Motown includes the Supremes, Jr. Walker & the All-Stars, the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, and Martha and the Vandellas. But the artists alone were not the whole story by any means. Motown’s staff songwriting and production teams (e.g., Holland-Dozier-Holland) and in-house musicians (including such unsung heroes as bandleader/keyboardist Earl Van Dyke and bassist James Jamerson) contributed immeasurably to the Motown sound. The idea of a self-contained operation exuding soul from its every pore was all part of Gordy’s grand design. The rags-to-riches story began in Detroit’s inner city where Gordy, born in 1929 as the son of a plastering contractor, dreamed of making his mark on the world. Stints in the army and as a boxer and record-store manager preceded his entree into the creative and entrepreneurial side of the music business. In the mid-Fifties, Gordy began writing songs for local R&B acts and quickly acquired a local reputation as a songwriter, producer and hustler. His first break came in 1957, when Brunswick Records bought a song of his called “"Reet Petite"” for Jackie Wilson. In 1959, Gordy ventured into independent production with singer Marv Johnson, enjoying a few modest hits such as “"Come to Me."” In 1960, Gordy leased another hit single – “"Money,"” by Barrett Strong – to Anna Records, a label owned by his sister. Then he decided to launch his own company: Tammie Records, which was changed to Tamla and eventually joined by the Gordy, Soul and Motown imprints. All of these labels were overseen from a Detroit house at 2648 West Grand Boulevard that Gordy dubbed “"Hitsville U.S.A."” The first hit of any size for the fledgling company belonged to the Miracles, a vocal group led by Smokey Robinson. “"Way Over There,"” released on Tamla in 1960, sold a respectable 60,000 copies. It’s followup, “"Shop Around,"” reached Number Two on the pop charts and launched Motown into the national market. Overseeing the whole operation from its founding in 1959 to its sale in 1988 was Berry, who insured that Motown’s stable of singers, songwriters, producers and musicians took the concept of simple, catchy pop songs to a whole new level of sophistication and, thanks to the music’s roots in gospel and blues, visceral intensity. At Motown, notions of “formula” were transformed into works of art in the hands of singers like Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, Smokey Robinson, Levi Stubbs (of the Four Tops), David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks (of the Temptations), Diana Ross, Martha Reeves and Stevie Wonder. 

  Gwen Ifill 

Gwen Ifill is moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and a senior correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. She is also the best-selling author of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Ms. Ifill reports on a wide range of issues including both foreign affairs and U.S. politics and policies. She has covered six presidential campaigns and moderated two vice presidential debates -- the 2004 debate between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat John Edwards and the 2008 debate between Democratic Senator Joe Biden and Republican Governor Sarah Palin. Ifill joined both Washington Week and The NewsHour in 1999, interviewing newsmakers and reporting on issues ranging from foreign affairs to politics. In doing so, Ifill became the first African American woman to host a prominent political talk show. Before moving to PBS, Ifill spent five years at NBC News as chief congressional and political correspondent and still appears on Meet the Press. Ifill has also had a successful career as a newspaper reporter. Prior to her 1994 move to NBC, Ifill worked at The New York Times where she covered the White House and politics. She also covered national and local affairs for The Washington Post, Baltimore Evening Sun, and the Boston Herald American. “I always knew I wanted to be a journalist, and my first love was newspapers,” Ifill said. “But public broadcasting provides the best of both worlds—combining the depth of newspapering with the immediate impact of broadcast television.” Ifill has received more than a dozen honorary doctorates and is the recipient of several broadcasting excellence awards including honors from the National Press Foundation, Ebony Magazine, the Radio Television News Directors Association, and American Women in Radio and Television. A native of New York City and graduate of Simmons College in Boston, Ifill serves on the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Harvard University Institute of Politics, and the News Literacy Project. Ifill also interviewed Diahann Carroll, Quincy Jones, Eartha Kitt, and Smokey Robinson for The HistoryMakers’ popular annual PBS-TV series An Evening With… 


  Executive Producer 

Julieanna L. Richardson   


Suzanne de Passe 



 Charles Randolph-Wright

Music Director

Ray Chew


Valerie Simpson

Janelle Monae


Brandon Dixon

Valisia LeKae


National PublicTelevision Carriage

February 2013

 Sunday 2/03

KVIE / Sacramento, CA                  10:00 PM

 WEIU/Champaign, IL                     8:00 PM


Monday 2/04

WEIU/ Champaign, IL                     10:00 PM (repeat)


Tuesday 2/05

WUNC/Raleigh, NC                       8:00 PM

 WNSC/Charlotte, NC                    8:00 PM

WUNL/Greensboro, NC                  8:00 PM

 WUND/ Greenville, NC                 8:00 PM

 WUNJ/Wilmington, NC                  8:00 PM


Thursday 2/07  

   WIPB / Indianapolis, IN                  10:00 PM

WCVW/Richmond, VA                  10:00 PM

WXXI/Rochester,NY                      7:00 PM


Sunday                 2/10                     

WTGE / Toledo, OH                         5:00 PM


Monday               2/11

WTVS / Detroit, MI                          11:00 PM

 WQED/ Pittsburgh, PA                  10:00 PM


Tuesday               2/12

KUED/Salt Lake City, UT                                12:00 AM

WJCT/Jacksonville,FL                     7:00 PM


Wednesday        2/13

KRCB / San Francisco, CA              9:00 PM

WLAE/ New Orleans, LA               8:00 PM


Thursday             2/14

WLAE / New Orleans, LA               3:00 AM              


 Saturday              2/16

WPNE / Green Bay, WI                  9:00 PM

WHA/ Madison, WI                        9:00 PM

WHLA/ La Crosse, WI                     9:00 PM

WHRM/ Wausau, WI                     9:00 PM


Sunday                 2/17

WVIZ / Cleveland, OH                    2:00 PM

WCMU / Flint, MI                             5:00 PM 

 WCMV / Travers City, MI              5:00 PM

WCML / Alpena, MI                        5:00PM 

WRET / Greenville, SC                    6:00PM

 WNTV / Greenville, SC                   6:00 PM

WHMC / Florence -  Myrtle Beach, SC                       6:00 PM

WRJA / Columbia, SC                      6:00 PM

 WITV / Charleston, SC                    6:00PM

WHUT / Washington, DC               9:00 PM

KSPS /Spokane, WA                       11:00 PM


Monday               2/18    

WHUT/Washington, DC                 1:00 AM

KQED / San Francisco, CA              9:00 PM

WGTV / Atlanta, GA                        11:00 PM

WNEO / Cleveland, OH                  11:00 M

KOPB / Portland, OR                       11:00 PM

WJWJ / Savannah, GA                    11:00 PM 

WCES / Augusta, GA                       11:00 PM

WDCO/ Macon, GA                         11:00 PM

KEPB / Eugene, OR                          11:00 PM

WJSP/ Columbus, GA                     11:00 PM

KFTS/Medford, OR                          11:00 PM

WABW/ Albany, GA                        11:00 PM

KOAB / Bend, OR                             11:00 PM


Wednesday        2/20

KVCR / Los Angeles, CA                 8:00 PM


Friday                    2/22

WETA/ Washington, DC                 9:00 PM

KCWC /Casper-Riverton, WY       9:00 PM

WTTW /Chicago, IL                          10:00 PM

KHET/ Honolulu, HI                          10:00 PM


Saturday              2/23

WNET/New York, NY                      1:00 PM


Sunday                 2/24

WHYY / Philadelphia, PA               1:30 PM

WGBH/ Boston, MA                        1:00 PM

KTCA/Minneapolis, MN                                1:00 PM 

KBDI/ Denver, CO                            1:00 PM

KTSC / Colorado Springs, CO        1:00 PM

KRMJ / Grand Junction, CO          1:00 PM

KETC / St. Louis, MO                       4:00 PM

WITF/Harrisburg, PA                       4:00 PM

WGSU /Grand Rapids, MI             8:00 PM

WLVT/Philadelphia, PA (Allentown, PA)                  10:00 PM 

WCVW / Richmond, VA                 11:00 PM


Monday               2/25

KLTS / Shreveport, LA                    12:00 PM

 WLPB / Baton Rouge                      12:00 PM


Tuesday               2/26

WENO /Cleveland, OH                   3:00 AM (repeat)


Wednesday        2/27

WKMJ/Louisville, KY                       9:00 PM

KET/Lexington, KY                           9:00 PM

WKMU/Paducah, KY                       9:00 PM


Thursday             2/28

WSBE/ Providence, RI                    8:00 PM

 KETA/ Oklahoma City, OK             10:00 PM

KRSC / Tulsa, OK                               10:00 PM         



March and April Airdates

Saturday              3/02 

KWSU/Spokane, WA                     10:00 PM


Wednesday        3/13

WKAR /Lansing, MI                         8:00 PM


Tuesday               3/19

WKAR / Lansing, MI                        7:00 PM


Thursday             3/21 

WCTE / Cookeville, TN                   9:00 PM (Nashville)


Saturday              4/20

WLAE / New Orleans,LA               9:00 PM


Follow all of the press coverage for An Evening With Berry Gordy:






 WIRE IMAGE (global photo wire service)[156612331]&ep=1...

Chicago Crusader

Chicago Defender

 Rolling Out Magazine

Pre event feature

Honorary Co-Chairs

Michelle Boone Christie Hefner Richard Parsons
Suzanne de Passe LMFAO Walter and Shirley Massey
Lucian Grainge Steven McKeever  


Event Co-Chairs

Clarence Avant Michele Coleman Mayes
Kelly McNamara Corley Carol H. Williams


 Benefit Committee

James Andrews Brenda Gaines Cheryl Mayberry McKissack
Katéy Assem Denise & Gary Gardner Sharon Morrow
Larry Bailey & Loleta Thomas Bailey Karen & Kerry Gordy Joel & Wanda Pelz
Al Bell Deborah Gray-Young Al & Cheri Reid
Alonzo Byrd Ethiopia Habtemariam Helen Hammond Redding
Ricki Fairley Brown Carmen & Courtney Hollowell Chanda Rice
Toni Cook Bush & Dwight Bush Patricia Brown Holmes Dee Robinson Reid
Vivian Scott Chew Janice Hutchinson Michele Rogers
Almeta Cooper Thomas Leavens Brenda Russell
Risa Davis Connie Lindsey Tim Russell
David Day Sandy Matthews Carol Sagers
Timothy Francis Kimberly McCullough Helen Hammond Redding