Review | Hitsville: The Making of Motown Documentary – Feel Good Thrill for Music Lovers

This is the story of Motown, an uplifting story of 89-year-old, Berry Gordy and his legendary success, a music mogul who despite a segregated America managed to take the music of Motown mainstream, to the world.  In 1958, the world was a different place black artists were not allowed in hotels or to use the same entrance as white artists. There was a place for colored people even when big name stars. The documentary opens with the voice of Gordy in a meeting with his staff discussing the artist roster, reeling of names like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and the Isley Brothers setting the tone and enforcing the calibre and might of this very important record label that shaped and revolutionized American music. We are reminded of the hits that came with those big names, “Dancing In The Streets,” “My Girl,”  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “You Can’t Hurry Love,”.

Gordy always the businessman was innovative in his approach to Motown he employed women in key positions (his two sisters) and had a team which was White, Black, Italian. He states. ...”the colour of money is not black or white it is green”. It was about the best man or woman for the job.

Hitsville focuses on the beginning, marking the birth of the Motown in Detroit in 1958 until it relocates to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. “The film tracks the unique system that Berry Gordy assembled that enabled Motown to become the most successful record label of all time. It was in the 1970’s that Gordy “realised” it was time to move as it made good business sense. Smoky Robinson and Gordy narrate. taking us on the journey of Motown, Smoky being one of the artists who was there at the beginning. It is an entertaining documentary as the two remember what they recall being the making of Motown over the years, the artist that came and went, the hits, the romance between Gordy and Diane Ross. They recall the Supremes coming to Motown a little less polished than they became- Gordy gave all his artists lessons in etiquette.

Hitsville also comprises of exclusive interviews old and new: Oprah recalls the first time she saw the Supremes on TV and how she “called all her friends to see beautiful black women on the screen”, a rarity at that time. Archival label footage takes us to the 11-year-old Stevie Wonder and the young Michael Jackson.

It’s a nice documentary, it is what the American dream should look like if there is an American dream, not bad for an ex-Ford Motor company employee who started his label in 1958 at the peak of the Civil Rights movement, there was so much stacked against him.

This the only documentary that has been authorised by Motown and directors Gabe and Benjamin Turner manage to keep the infectious beat that is synonymous with the music of Motown and you leave the cinema tapping your feet and inspired. Features John Legend, Jamie Foxx, Martha Reeves, Annette Beard to name a few. Across selected UK cinemas on 30th September for one night only  book tickets here 

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