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Rock Hall To Celebrate Motown's 50th

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, December 22, 2008

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Detroit won't be the only city celebrating Motown's 50th anniversary in the New Year.

On New Year's Day, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland will open Motown: The Sound of Young American Turns 50, an exhibit dedicated to the anniversary that will feature sheet music, original music scores, contracts, costumes, instruments, posters, programs and more memorabilia from the company's vaults and private collections.

Among the artifacts in the collection are: a pair of sunglasses from Stevie Wonder and the "African American" outfit he wore at the 1999 Super Bowl; Funk Brother James Jamerson's upright bass, which has never been displayed in public; Rick James' Rickenbacker 4001 bass from the cover of the "Street Songs" album; Supremes member Mary Wilson's "Red Hot" outfit from the group's 1970 "Ed Sullivan Show" appearance that introduced Jean Terrell as Diana Ross' replacement; and a March 1959 contract for an artist named Melvin Franklin (not the Temptations member) signed by Roquel Billy Davis rather than Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr.

"There's a lot of labels that have had major milestones passed in recent years, but Motown is one of the few label names that most people will recognize," notes Howard Kramer, the Hall of Fame + Museum's Detroit-born curatorial director. "The subject of Motown is so vast you could do an entire museum on that. We're just trying to get something out there to commemorate something that's very important to people."

The Motown exhibit, which is located at the front of the facility's main exhibit hall, will run through 2009.

The Detroit celebration, meanwhile, is still scheduled to get under way on Jan. 12 -- the date founder Berry Gordy. Jr., received an $800 loan from his family that became Motown's seed capital -- with an In Their Own Words series at the Motown Historical Museum on West Grand Blvd. Motown alumni will appear at the museum to talk to visitors about their experiences with the company. Admission will be half-off during the anniversary week.

The museum is also planning a Marvin Gaye exhibit in April and several other special events during the year. An expanded version of its annual fundraising gala and concert will take place in November. A traveling exhibit in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution, is expected to hit the road in the fall of 2010. -- Gary Graff

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