When Berry Gordy, Jr. decided he wasn't making as much money as he should have been writing songs for the like of Jackie Wilson and The Matadors, he decided to go into the production and publishing business. In 1959 he started Tamla Records which got off to a promising start when, fittingly enough, Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" reached #2 on the R-and-B charts. He followed that up by signing The Matadors who quickly changed their name to The Miracles, buying a little property in Detroit that would become known as Hitsville, and starting a second label called Motown which would soon become the namesake for his parent record company.
With a core staff of producers (Gordy, Smokey Robinson, William "Mickey Stevenson, Norman Whitfield, Harvey Fuqua), songwriters (Lamont-Dozier-Lamont, Ashford and Simpson, Whitfield-Strong), and a smoking house band (known collectively as the Funk Brothers), the label churned out hits faster than you could say "the hippies are coming," racking up 110 top 10 smashes between 1961 and 1971. These tracks came to define the "Motown Sound" which was soon imitated around the world. Just as importantly, Gordy stressed the need for his acts to be ambassadors of the African-American community; the artists and the music helped break down social and racial barriers.
Stevie Wonder is the only Motown artist from whom we have material in the Concert Vault, but there are plenty of covers of The Temptations, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, The Commodores and more. And though the consistency that came from the production team and the Funk Brothers is difficult to reproduce live, the songwriting remains, and the songwriting was fantastic. Which is why you'll find artists from the worlds of pop, rock, folk, funk, jazz and country playing Motown hits on this mix and why they work just as well regardless of the musical context.