The 1960s was one of the most musically diverse decades in American history. While The Beatles and Bob Dylan topped the charts, a unique sound out of Detroit also shaped the musical landscape. It originated on the city’s streets and in its housing projects, reflecting seismic shifts in not just pop music, but in racial attitudes and youth culture.
Berry Gordy, Jr., was the visionary behind both the music and the Black-owned record company he named Motown. A former prizefighter and songwriter, he believed that talent could be found on nearly every Detroit streetcorner. A blend of gospel, blues, and pop, Motown quickly became “The Sound of Young America,” crashing the American pop charts and challenging the British Invasion. From Motown came the Supremes, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5, and many others. Collectively, they changed the musical direction of the nation.
Motown: The Sound of Young America is the story of the famed record company and the artists who began making music history more than a half century ago. Curated by the GRAMMY Museum®, the exhibition was curated in 2019 in honor of the 60th anniversary of Motown Records. First displayed at the LBJ Presidential Library, the original show has been expanded to not only celebrate this milestone anniversary but also to feature Motown Records’ move to Los Angeles and highlight the new young talent on Motown’s current roster.
Now touring the country, Motown: The Sound of Young America will be on view at the Oregon Historical Society in downtown Portland from September 23, 2022, through March 26, 2023. This dynamic, engaging exhibition includes stage outfits from many of Motown’s top performers, such as the Temptations, the Four Tops, Boyz II Men, and the Supremes. The exhibition also features interviews with many Motown legends, letting visitors get deep inside the creative process perfected at Motown sixty years ago. Visitors will also experience interactive displays, including an opportunity to perform the Supremes’ “Stop! In The Name Of Love” on stage and learn the Temptations’ signature dance moves.
Some of the iconic pieces on display in the exhibition include:
- The iconic “Butterfly” gowns worn by the Supremes
- A harmonica and keyboard played by Stevie Wonder
- Ray Parker, Jr.’s, Gretsch guitar
- A full set of Jackson 5 outfits
- Jackets worn by Boyz II Men
- An outfit worn by a member of the Temptations
The Oregon Historical Society’s museum is open seven days a week, Monday–Saturday 10am–5pm and Sunday 12pm–5pm. Admission is $10, with discounts for students, seniors, teachers, and youth. Admission is free every day for OHS members and Multnomah County residents. Learn more and plan your visit at ohs.org/motown.