Main content

Berry Gordy

Kirsty Young interviews Berry Gordy, record producer and creator of the Motown label, who chooses the eight records he would take with him to a desert island.

Kirsty Young's castaway is the producer Berry Gordy.

He founded the Motown record label and his musical empire made worldwide stars of Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Jackson 5 and Marvin Gaye.

The second youngest of eight children, he was brought up in Detroit. He left school at sixteen to become a Featherweight boxer, and served as a soldier in the Korean war before making music his career. His first foray into the music business was a jazz record store in Detroit but he was out of step with popular taste and he became bankrupt.

It was whilst working on a a car production line that he came up with the idea of setting up a record label. The combination of his song-writing skills and entrepreneurial spirit took Motown music to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and to the centre of American culture during a pivotal moment in America's civil rights history. He was friends with Dr Martin Luther King and recorded some of his speeches on the Motown label.

Producer: Sarah Taylor.

Available now

35 minutes

Music Played

  • The Nat King Cole Trio

    Sweet Lorraine

    • The Complete After Midnight Sessions.
    • Capitol.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 3 No. 2

    Performer: Vladimir Ashkenazy.
    • Rachmaninov: 24 Preludes.
    • Decca.
  • Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five

    Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens

    • Choo Choo Ch’Boogie.
    • ASV.
  • Jackie Wilson

    To Be Loved

    • The Very Best of Jackie Wilson.
    • Brunswick Records.
  • Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

    I’ll Try Something New

    • 18 Greatest Hits.
    • Tamla.
  • Billie Holiday

    God Bless The Child

    • The Legend of Billie Holiday.
    • Sony Music Entertainment UK Ltd.
  • CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE

    • Diana Ross & The Supremes

      I Hear a Symphony

      • The Ultimate Collection.
      • Motown.
  • Brandon Victor Dixon

    Can I Close The Door (On Love)

    • Motown the Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording).
    • Motown.
  • BOOK CHOICE

    The Collected works of Rudyard Kipling

  • LUXURY ITEM

    A cellar of his favourite wine

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Kirsty Young
Interviewed Guest Berry Gordy
Producer Sarah Taylor

Broadcasts

The Desert Island Discs podcast

The Desert Island Discs podcast

Subscribe or download individual episodes.

Listen to over 2,000 programmes

Articles

Articles

Read the surprising things we've learned about some stand-out castaways.

The 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs

The 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs

Featuring David Beckham, the funniest and most moving moments, animations and quizzes.

The Lark Ascending – The People’s Desert Island Disc

The Lark Ascending – The People’s Desert Island Disc

Why does Vaughan Williams’s masterpiece appeal to so many castaways?

Podcast