Music for the soul [sic] as Ben & Gabe Turner’s documentary follows the history of Tamla Motown from its early days in Detroit as an independent label to relocation (and eventual buy-out) in LA in the 70s.
Essentially anchored by founder Berry Gordy and singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson, the documentary is a music delight with early archive footage of the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Jackson 5, Robinson himself. Contemporary interviews with many of the stars from its heyday alongside producers, management and music historians add to the insight.
It’s a glorious two hours into an iconic record label (110 American top 10 hits between 1961 and 1971) – even if carefully controlled and monitored. In its early years, Motown was known as a family. But there was inevitably dissent and major fallouts as perceived favouritism left some on the margins, under-appreciated, underpaid, leading to their departure from the label. There’s little analysis of the disputes. Instead, Hitsville: The Making of Motown focuses on the music and its success and position as a black-owned company in 1960s America. And what music!