Motown Stars honor Gordy Edwards

 

 

Motown stars come out to honor Esther Gordy Edwards

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John M. Galloway / Special to The Detroit News

For the grand finale of Saturday's Motown gala, founder Berry Gordy ordered his employees onstage.

By Susan Whitall / The Detroit News

As Motown Historical Museum galas go, it'll be hard to top Saturday night's Tribute to Esther Gordy Edwards, short of reuniting the Supremes.
The annual fund-raiser drew 700 people to the ballroom of the Detroit Marriott on Saturday to honor Edwards and the Detroit museum she founded 20 years ago.
Her younger brother, Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., said Edwards was "born bossy" but is responsible for a lot of the things he gets credit for.

When Smokey Robinson sang "Ooo Baby Baby," he had the crowd swooning, including newly elected Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Then came the first of the night's surprises, when Stevie Wonder performed.

Wonder reminisced about how Edwards helped arrange for his education at the Michigan School for the Blind and protected him from the wrath of the musicians when he would drink too many sodas and need to use the restroom right before a show.

But as Gordy hinted earlier, "You won't believe the scale of what is going to go on in the ballroom." The boss himself took the stage and ordered all of his former employees to come up.

As Gordy barked out commands, Thelma Houston sang her '70s disco hit "Don't Leave Me This Way," Brenda Holloway took a turn on "Every Little Bit Hurts," and Detroit City Councilwoman-elect Martha Reeves had everybody chime in a chorus of "Dancing in the Streets," including her producer William "Mickey" Stevenson, Robinson, and Cal Gill Street of the Velvelettes.

"OK, I want to hear a nice, innocent white girl sing. Go ahead, give it a shot," Gordy told Teena Marie. "But don't just stand there; give it something," he joked, before she tore into "Ooo Baby Baby."

Because songwriter/producers Brian and Eddie Holland are back in the fold, even artists who recorded for their solo label Invictus were considered part of the family. Gordy had Invictus artist Freda Payne sing "Band of Gold," before grabbing the microphone back and telling Wonder to "sing that song that goes hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm..." singing the thumping bass and clavinet intro to "I Wish."

Before the gala, former Motown vice president and longtime producer of Motown TV and film projects Suzanne de Passe said the 12-hour miniseries "Berry Gordy's Motown" was proceeding on track. Although "it's at the beginning of the process," she said, "I don't know if 12 hours is going to be enough," she joked.

David Gest, Liza Minnelli's soon-to-be ex-husband, arrived escorting Payne. Sister Scherrie Payne, a '70s Supreme, was nearby.

"I ran around L.A. as a teenager with Martha Reeves, Smokey and Michael Jackson," said Gest. On Saturday, during the dedication of the Motown time capsule, Gordy said Esther "was such a visionary. But she's one of the quiet people, never tooting their own horn."

The time capsule is to be opened in 20 years, and Gordy insisted, "I intend to be the one opening it -- that's part of my deal."


John M. Galloway / Special to The Detroit News

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Stevie Wonder talked almost as much as he sang, reminiscing about how Esther Gordy Edwards convinced his mother that her young son would be in safe hands at Motown.