Mission accomplished. Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell and special guests will dedicate the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Argyle Avenue as “Berry Gordy Square,” to pay tribute to the iconic record producer and founder of Motown records at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 25.
This location has tremendous historic significance as the former home of Motown Records once the company moved its operations from Detroit to Los Angeles in 1972. Entertainment legends such as comedian Bob Hope, singer Ray Charles and former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley are just a few Angelenos that have been honored with a square in Hollywood.
As I child I grew up in Gary, Indiana, during the very beginning of the musical birth of the Jackson 5. Gordy and Motown Records were well known in our city at that time. On Saturday mornings, I would wake up and run to the television to watch The Jackson 5 Cartoon series, which Gordy would appear on.
Gordy, was blessed with a gift for locating extraordinary musical talent. He signed such legendary artists as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, Jimmy Ruffin, the Contours, the Four Tops, Thelma Houston, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Commodores, the Velvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, Rick James, Teena Marie, Switch and DeBarge.
The square dedication honor is latest of his achievements, which include his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and his induction into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1998.
In 2009, he was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame, and he received the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Pioneer Award in 2013. In 2016, he received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama for “helping to create a trailblazing new sound in American music. As a record producer and songwriter, he helped build Motown, launching the music careers of countless legendary artists. His unique sound helped shape our Nation’s story.”
Being honored by our city is decades overdue. I can remember on June 15 sitting with Gordy’s niece, Karla Gordy Bristol, at the Marvin Gaye Post Office dedication.
As Karla and I talked, surrounded by Motown alumni and Gaye family members, she stated how happy she was that her Uncle’s Marvin legacy was being remembered and now immortalized the first Motown artist with a U.S. stamp and Post Office named after him. Then she added: “But I wish my Uncle Berry had a place where his legacy could also be remembered one day by family and friends.”
I immediately responded to Karla, don’t worry we can work together like Zeola and I did and ensure Mr. Gordy’s legacy in Los Angeles will always be remembered by everyone.
A month later, after Karla and I were still trying to sort this project out, I was walking down the corridors of City Hall and ran into Councilman O’Farrell.
I asked O’Farrell if he would consider a Berry Gordy Square designation in his Hollywood council district. O’Farrell immediately responded yes; he would love too. I stood there with a look of disbelief on my face then sincere gratitude.
I was expecting a political answer from him ranging from let me consider this or have you launched a petition campaign to build up support from stakeholders. O’Farrell stated that it was a great idea that he understands Gordy’s and Motown’s historical importance and legacy as they celebrate their 60th anniversary. It will only help enhance the council district.
I left with a big smile on my face and called Karla immediately. We had taken her idea and gotten the job done. I would be remiss if I didn’t personally thank her for the genuine love she showed her uncle in launching this effort.
The celebration would not have happened without O’Farrell saying yes. His Hollywood field deputy, Sean Starkey, and the rest of the council staff has done an amazing job in planning it.
Brenda Boyce, Gordy’s personal assistant, also has helped us do everything and Gordy has agreed to allow the city of Los Angeles request to honor him.
The world is a better place because of Motown Records and his desire to make music for all people. We all commend him on a well-deserved honor.
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