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Course Catalog > Courses: Summer

HYBRID (ZOOM): Motown Records: The Greatest Soul Label   

**This class is a Hybrid. This portion of class will be taught on Zoom**

**Note that this class will skip June 19 as SFSU is closed for Juneteenth.**

More than any other record company, Motown represented a sound and a style, helping to define soul  music with hundreds of hits in the 1960s and 1970s. Using both common and rare recordings and video  clips, this course lays out the label's history from its beginnings in Detroit in the late 1950s to its growth to  the most successful independent record label of all time. Many legends of soul music will be seen, heard,  and discussed all the way, including the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Mary Wells,  Martha & the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson Five. 
 

Week by Week Outline 

Week One
The Roots of Motown: Berry Gordy, Jr. founds Motown in the late 1950s, and by 1961 the label has its first big hits with Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "Shop Around" the Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman," also developing its roster with other artists like Mary Wells.


Week Two
Motown in the Early 1960s: The label builds on its initial success by more big hits by the Miracles, the Marvelettes, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, and others like the Contours. With an independent studio and organization that also includes talented songwriters and producers like the team of Brian Holland, Eddie Holland, and Lamont Dozier, they begin to build a brand identity with touring Motown revues and a growing roster of stars, with Stevie Wonder and Martha & Vandellas getting their first big hits in 1963 with "Fingertips" and "Heat Wave."


Week Three
Motown Becomes the Sound of Young America : Motown grows and thrives even as the British Invasion overruns the US, with the Temptations and the Supremes getting their first big hits in 1964. Its trademark soul-pop sound is embellished by polished personal and TV appearances by their acts, yet more emerging stars like the Four Tops, and five straight #1 hits by the Supremes, who become one of the most popular acts in the world. Motown uses the motto "The Sound of Young America."


Week Four
Motown in the Mid-‘60s: Motown becomes the most successful independent record label in history, and the biggest African-American-owned business of any kind, with more huge hits by the Supremes, Temptations, Miracles, Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and others. Motown also starts to become bigger in the UK and throughout the world as soul music spreads on a global level. It keeps expanding its roster of major artists with Gladys Knight, Junior Walker, Tammi Terrell, and others.


Week Five
Motown in the Late 1960s: Motown rolls on with as much success as ever with hits like Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour," and the Temptations' "I Wish It Would Rain." But the Supremes change their lineup and Holland-Dozier-Holland leave, hinting at simmering problems threatening the label's vision and unity. The label still continues to innovate by going into social commentary with the Supremes' "Love Child" and a psychedelic influence with the Temptations' "Cloud Nine," and break another superstar act at the end of the decade with the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back."


Week Six
Motown in the 1970s: With a somewhat more updated sound drawing from trends in psychedelic and funk music, Motown  continues to roll on with big hits by the Temptations and the Jackson Five, as well as Edwin Starr's "War." Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder demand more artistic independence than any Motown artist previously received, and are the first to make serious album-length statements. But Motown closes its Detroit offices after moving to Los Angeles, and while it continues to sell many records with Gaye, Wonder, the Jacksons, and Diana Ross, it loses much of its sonic identity, losing some of its stars to other labels as its peak as a trend-setting label comes to an end.

 
  • HYBRID (ZOOM): Motown Records: The Greatest Soul Label
  • Fee: $125.00
    Dates: 6/5/2024 - 7/17/2024
    Times: 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
    Days: W
    Sessions: 6
    Building: Online
    Room:
    Instructor: Richie Unterberger
    Seats Available: 65

    **This class is a Hybrid. This portion of class will be taught on Zoom**

    **Note that this class will skip June 19 as SFSU is closed for Juneteenth.**

    More than any other record company, Motown represented a sound and a style, helping to define soul  music with hundreds of hits in the 1960s and 1970s. Using both common and rare recordings and video  clips, this course lays out the label's history from its beginnings in Detroit in the late 1950s to its growth to  the most successful independent record label of all time. Many legends of soul music will be seen, heard,  and discussed all the way, including the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Mary Wells,  Martha & the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson Five. 

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