NEW YORK (WWJ/AP) – Berry Gordy will be honored at this year’s Songwriters Hall of Fame gala.
The organization announced Tuesday that the Motown founder will receive the Pioneer Award at its 44th annual induction ceremony on June 13 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.
“Think about it, he pioneered a marketplace for African American artistry and then he invited the world in to enjoy it. Berry was way ahead of his time; his young and immaculately groomed and dressed artists were among the first to receive media training. Berry Gordy and the Motown sound are essential to the American music story,” Songwriters Hall of Fame Chairman Jimmy Webb said in a statement.
The Pioneer Award was established last year to honor people who have “been a major influence on generations of songwriters.” It was presented posthumously to Woody Guthrie, making Gordy the first living person to receive the distinction.
As the head of Motown, Gordy helped establish careers and hits for Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and Michael Jackson and The Jackson Five. A Broadway musical about Gordy’s life, “Motown: The Musical,” debuted this week.
The “Motown sound” reached out across a racially divided, politically and socially charged country to transform popular music. In the 1960s, Gordy transcended barriers by booking his artists on shows like American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show.
As a songwriter, Gordy has written and co-written 240 songs for his Jobete Music publishing company’s Motown catalogue. He is also a producer, director, entrepreneur, teacher and visionary, who was actively involved in the Civil Rights movement, releasing an LP of the recorded speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. entitled “The Great March to Freedom.” His films include Lady Sings the Blues, which garnered five Academy Award nominations, and Mahogany.
Along with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Gordy has been honored with many accolades, including his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, the Grammy Salute To Industry Icons’ President’s Merit Award in 2008 and an honor from President Barack Obama with a “Salute to Motown” evening at the White House in 2011.
Previously announced inductees at this year’s Songwriters Hall of Fame event include Tony Hatch, Mick Jones and Lou Gramm, Holly Knight, JD Souther, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.
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