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Berry Gordy leads Motown alumni party at the Roostertail

By Gary Graff
Digital First Media/@GraffonMusic

Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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DETROIT -- A Motown party isn't all that different from any other family reunion -- except for some major stars, and even superstars, and arguably the best body of music ever created by one record company, ever.

The Motown family gathered Tuesday night, Oct. 21, at the Roostertail -- the site of many a Motown bash during the 60s -- to celebrate the opening of "Motown The Musical," at the Fisher Theatre. Motown Homecoming: Celebrating a Musical Legacy brought together company founder Berry Gordy, Jr., who wrote the musical's script, and dozens of alumni, ranging from artists -- including Martha Reeves, the Four Tops' Abdul "Duke" Fakir, the Miracles' Claudette Robinson, Funk Brothers guitarist Dennis Coffey and members of the Contours, the Vandellas, the Marvelettes, the Velvelettes and more -- to executives, engineers and secretaries.

The children of late Motown personalities such as the Supremes' Florence Ballard, the Four Tops' Levi Stubbs, musicians Thomas "Beans" Bowles and James Jamerson, among others, also attended the bash, along with singer Michael Bolton, a special guest who performed "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" with Detroit's Mel Ball & Colours.

"It's always good to be back home," Gordy, accompanied by girlfriend ??, told he crowd after receiving a special proclamation from U.S. Rep. John Conyers and the key to the city from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. "For me this is truly a homecoming, bringing the Motown story back to where it all began. Everything started here...and now here I am more than 50 years later."

Gordy also paid tribute to the Motown staffers "who never got the popularity or notoriety that was due," naming arranger Paul Riser, executives Mickey Stevenson and Shelly Berger, songwriter-producer Robert Bateman and his siblings Iris Gordy and Robert L. Gordy. Gordy then called the original Motowners to the stage to sing "The Motown Company Song" that was written by Smokey Robinson.

"This is wonderful, man," Stevenson said afterwards. "It's like time stood still. Of course it didn't. We're all older, but the feelings are the same."

Fakir said he was happy "to see some folks I haven't seen in awhile, just have some fun," and the Contours' Joe Billingslea said that, "I never in my wildest dreams saw this happening. I'm so happy to be a part of it, music that will last forever. Former Detroit City Councilwoman Reeves, meanwhile said that she's "so glad the musical is here, finally. It's good. It's about time the story was told, and it's good it was told by the master himself."

Robinson, the ex-wife of Motown legend Smokey Robinson, was preparing to see the musical for the third time on Wednesday, Oct. 22, and added that, "It makes you feel good to be part of something that touch not only yourself and your family but also touched the world. We're all so blessed and extremely that today, 2014, people still play our music and buy our records.

"Who would've known when we first began that any of this would take place. It's just a wonderful feeling."

Many of those at the party will walk the red carpet at Wednesday's special production of "Motown The Musical," and Gordy will hold a special talk about the production afterward. The musical runs through Nov. 16. Tickets are $39-$130 Call 313-872-1000 or visit www.broadwayindetroit.com

Web Site: www.broadwayindetroit.com

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