Born in Detroit
in 1929, Berry Gordy abandoned songwriting for professional boxing before joining the US Army during the Korean War. When discharged in 1953, he returned to Detroit, opened a Jazz
record store, then worked in a Ford factory when the shop bankrupted him. His luck improved when he penned Jackie Wilson
's hits 'Reet Petite
' (1957) and 'Lonely Teardrops
' (1958) and Marv Johnson's 'You Got What It Takes
' (1959). By 1960, he had founded Motown
, whose enormous success established him as a pioneering black music executive.
He cast his Motown protegee Diana Ross as Billie Holliday in the acclaimed biopic Lady Sings The Blues (1972), but watched helpless as Mahogany bombed. However, his exective producer credits on the blockbusters Dirty Dancing (1987) and Coming To America (1988) proved less humiliating. His involvement with Motown declined to the point where he sold out to MCA, but his candid autobiography To Be Loved (1995) is testimony to his legendary status.