Henry Ford gets credit for inventing the mass-produced automobile, but in a way, he is also partly responsible for Detroit’s second-most important product: Motown.
A young man named Berry Gordy emerged from the Army in 1953 at age 24 and began working at a Ford assembly plant, while putting in time at a jazz record store on the side. The monotony of the job gave him the freedom for his mind to wander and think about his passion: Music. Rhythm and blues, mostly. And he thought about how the way a car was made — empty shell moving along the assembly line, brakes fastened on, motor hooked up, upholstery installed, finishing touches added — could be a template for how a song might be made.
Five years later, he founded a record label and publishing company, named after the city he lived in and loved: The Motor City. Motor Town. MoTown. Additional subsidiary labels and corporations sprang up — Tamla, Jobete — but that was just window dressing. The public will always know and define the wondrous, smooth, sexy, soulful music that came from there as Motown.