The Grammy Museum will present “Motown: The Sound of Young America,” an exhibition dedicated to the Detroit-born record company, opening April 13 at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.
It will feature vintage stage outfits from acts including The Supremes, The Temptations, Four Tops and The Miracles, along with instruments played by the Hitsville studio band The Funk Brothers.
It also will feature several interactive displays: Visitors will be able to play drums to The Temptations’ “My Girl,” step onstage to perform The Supremes’ “Stop! In the Name of Love” and put their own twist on a half-finished composition created for the occasion by Lamont Dozier of the Holland-Dozier-Holland hit-making team.
The Motown exhibition will run at the LBJ library through January and is likely to tour after it wraps up in Austin.
Founded by Berry Gordy Jr. in January 1959, the company that became Motown Records grew into the country’s biggest black-owned enterprise.
One big goal of the new show is to demonstrate how Motown’s influence continues to reverberate today.
“The music is timeless — it’s probably the high point of American popular music,” said Bob Santelli, the Grammy Museum’s founding executive director and curator of the Motown exhibition. “It’s the embodiment of so many great things about American music. There isn’t an African-American artist, in particular, that hasn’t been directly or indirectly influenced by the sound of Motown.”
“Motown: The Sound of Young America” arrives during a busy 60th-anniversary year for Motown, including an array of activities to be hosted in Detroit by the Motown Museum. CBS will air the Grammys’ tribute concert April 21, and the Gordy-produced documentary “Hitsville: The Making of Motown” is headed to Showtime.
“The story of Motown is about people — the people who made the music and wrote it,” said the Supremes’ Mary Wilson, who lent two gowns for the exhibition.
Motown has been a fixture at the Grammy Museum’s flagship L.A. site, which opened in 2008. The new show will include some elements from that collection, but Santelli said most of it has never been on public display.
“The nice thing about the Grammys is we have connections with all the artists, so we can go straight to the source,” he said. “And when we don’t, we can go to other institutions, like the Motown Museum.”
Nikki Diller, the library’s museum exhibits specialist, said: “We’re a natural fit to showcase Motown’s unprecedented rise and influence on popular culture that started in the 1960s. That’s our era.”