Berry Gordy Explains How A Childhood Lesson On Race Influenced His First Few Motown Albums (VIDEO)

02/24/2015 10:41 am ET | Updated Feb 24, 2015

As the founder of Motown, Berry Gordy is -- and always has been -- an entrepreneur. From the time he was a young boy selling newspapers, Gordy was always thinking about ways to be more successful. Oftentimes, his ideas paid off, but there was one particular instance in Gordy's youth where he learned far more about life than he did business.

Back then, Gordy had a boyhood job selling "The Michigan Chronicle," a weekly African-American newspaper in Detroit. He was doing a great job of selling, but Gordy still began looking for other ways to increase his sales. That's when he got an idea, as he tells "Oprah's Master Class" in the above video.

"I said, 'Well, I've sold as many black papers as I can and I'm the number-one seller here. I'm going to take these black papers into a white neighborhood. Because people are the same!'" Gordy reasoned.

So, the boy set out with his big plan and his papers -- and it paid off. "I sold more papers than I had ever sold before. I mean, it was incredible," he says.

Encouraged, Gordy decided to enlist his younger brother to help him sell even more. The two ventured out together along the same route that had proven so successful a week prior, but this time, Gordy says that the boys had very different results.

"We sold no papers," Gordy recalls. "I realized then that one black kid was cute. Two were a threat to the neighborhood. No one spoke to us! I mean, it's like they saw us coming and they just moved out of the way."

This childhood learning stuck with Gordy for years, and even ended up influencing certain business decisions of his as a record executive.

"My first few albums, I didn't put black faces on them," he says.

Gordy points to The Miracles' "Mickey's Monkey," the Isley Bros.' "This Old Heart of Mine" and Mary Wells' "Bye Bye Baby" as a few examples. "They were all hit albums," he adds.

The universal success of these records showed the Motown founder that beneath the surface, all people liked the same things and responded to hits in the same way, regardless of any perceived differences.

"That was a very good lesson learned," Gordy says. "It made me realize that all people are full of love. All people are beautiful. The difference between us is so much less than the sameness."

Also in the interview: Gordy reveals that The Temptations' first Grammy-winning album almost never happened.

"Oprah's Master Class" airs on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Also on HuffPost:

Iconic Motown Records Album Covers
Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS