Gordy family

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Gordy
EthnicityAfrican American
Current regionDetroit, Michigan
Place of originUnited States
Notable membersBerry Gordy, Esther Gordy Edwards, Anna Gordy Gaye, Gwen Gordy Fuqua, Robert Gordy, Kerry Gordy, Rockwell, Rhonda Ross Kendrick, Redfoo, Denise Gordy, Bianca Lawson, Sky Blu
Connected familiesBristol, Brown, Bullock, Gaye, Lawson, Wakefield, Fuqua, Jackson, Kendrick
EstateMotown Historical Museum
 
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Gordy
EthnicityAfrican American
Current regionDetroit, Michigan
Place of originUnited States
Notable membersBerry Gordy, Esther Gordy Edwards, Anna Gordy Gaye, Gwen Gordy Fuqua, Robert Gordy, Kerry Gordy, Rockwell, Rhonda Ross Kendrick, Redfoo, Denise Gordy, Bianca Lawson, Sky Blu
Connected familiesBristol, Brown, Bullock, Gaye, Lawson, Wakefield, Fuqua, Jackson, Kendrick
EstateMotown Historical Museum

The Gordys are an African-American family of businesspeople and music industry executives. They were born to Georgia-reared parents Berry "Pops" Gordy, Sr. and Bertha Fuller Gordy and raised in Detroit, where most of the siblings played a pivotal role in the international acceptance of rhythm and blues music as a crossover phenomenon in the 1960s. The accomplishment is attributable to the creation of Motown, a company founded by the seventh-oldest sibling, Berry Gordy, Jr..[1]

Family members[edit]

Businesspeople, musicians, recording artists and executives within the family[edit]

Berry and Bertha Gordy[edit]

As a couple, Berry and Bertha owned several businesses, including a successful painting business that they established, and a construction firm. Berry, Sr. (or Berry II) established a Booker T. Washington grocery store in Detroit, while Bertha co-founded the Friendship Mutual Life Insurance Company. Later, Berry Sr. mentored several recording acts for his son's Motown label.

Bertha died in 1975. Berry II died in 1978. A tribute album, called Pops, We Love You!, and single, called "Pops, We Love You (A Tribute to Father)", were released later that year in his memory.[2][3]

Fuller Berry Gordy[edit]

The eldest Gordy child, Fuller B. Gordy (September 9, 1918 – November 9, 1991), born in Georgia, was an executive alongside his younger siblings in their brother Berry's Motown music company. Fuller was also a professional in bowling. His daughter Iris was married to singer Johnny Bristol.[4]

Esther Gordy Edwards[edit]

The eldest Gordy daughter, Esther (April 25, 1920 – August 24, 2011), born in Georgia, established herself early in business as a political campaigner for her husband, Detroit politician George Edwards. In the late 1950s, she formed a loan company named after her parents; in 1959, she helped her brother Berry with a $800 loan to start Tamla Records. She borrowed the proceeds from the college tuition fund their father had established for Berry. Edwards served as mentor, adviser, and vice president of Motown's main offices from 1961 until 1972, when Berry moved the entire operation to Los Angeles. In 1985, she founded the Motown Historical Museum at the site of the former Hitsville U.S.A. studios, where many of Motown's successful recording artists recorded. Esther died in 2011 at the age of 91.[5]

Anna Gordy Gaye[edit]

Though she is often remembered more for her volatile marriage to Motown legend Marvin Gaye, Anna Ruby Gordy (January 28, 1922 – January 31, 2014), the third and last child born in Georgia prior to the family's move to Detroit, was one of Motown's earliest songwriters, penning several hits mainly for her first (and only) husband. Anna also co-founded a self-named music label (Anna Records) that would establish Motown's records nationally, such as Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)". In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Anna co-wrote The Originals' biggest hits, "Baby I'm For Real" and "The Bells", alongside Marvin. She also co-wrote "God Is Love" and "Flying High (In the Friendly Sky)" on Marvin's famed What's Going On album. Despite an acrimonious divorce in 1977, Gordy remained friends with Gaye until his 1984 death, after which Anna retreated into seclusion, only coming out briefly to celebrate Marvin's music career by attending ceremonies, including Marvin's 1987 induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Anna died in 2014 at the age of 92.[6]

Loucye Gordy Wakefield[edit]

Another astute businesswoman, Loucye (1924 – July 24, 1965) was named head of Jobete Music, Motown's main publishing division created by Berry. Loucye headed the division until her sudden death from brain cancer in 1965. Her youngest brother Robert succeeded her as the publishing company's head. At the time of her death on July 24, 1965, she went by the name Loucye S. Gordy Wakefield.[7]

George Gordy[edit]

George Weldon Gordy, Sr. (January 7, 1926 – July 27, 2011) started several short businesses before joining his brother's Motown label in 1960, where he was a co-writer of several songs released by Motown artists. By his wife Rosemary (who died in 1980), he has six sons and two daughters.

Gwen Gordy Fuqua[edit]

Another important member of Motown's growing success was Gwendolyn Gordy (November 26, 1927 – November 8, 1999). Gwen partnered with her brother Berry and then-boyfriend Billy Davis to co-pen several hits for Jackie Wilson in the mid-1950s. In 1959, Gwen, Billy and sister Anna formed Anna Records in Detroit. Anna would be the site where the hit song, "Money (That's What I Want)", then a regional single for Berry's Tamla Records, would get its first national distribution. Two years later, Anna Records was absorbed by Motown. In 1961, Gwen married The Moonglows' Harvey Fuqua and the two presided over the labels Harvey Records and Tri-Phi Records; the latter label represented acts such as The Spinners. By 1964, Gwen joined Motown's staff songwriting team, later writing "Distant Lover" for her brother-in-law, Marvin Gaye, and discovering the disco group High Inergy in 1976. Gwen died of cancer in 1999 at the age of 72.[8]

Berry Gordy[edit]

A former boxer and jazz record store owner, Berry Gordy, Jr. (November 28, 1929 – ), first got involved with producing and writing R&B songs in 1955. Amongst Gordy's earliest songwriting successes were songs he penned as one-third of the songwriting team behind Jackie Wilson's first legion of solo hits, including "Reet Petite", "To Be Loved" and "Lonely Teardrops". By 1959, Gordy, fed up with not being paid royalties for his work with Wilson and other acts, decided to form a record label. He convinced his sister Esther to loan him $800 from the tuition fund his father had established for him and formed Tamla Records in January of that year. The label didn't become national until later that year after the success of Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)", and the label changed its name to Motown Records in December. Its first national release was The Miracles' "Way Over There". After 1964, Motown became one of the most successful recording labels in the business and "The Motown Sound", partially cultivated by Gordy, began to dominate popular music and pop culture. Gordy soon developed Motown Industries in 1968, which developed television specials and variety shows. By 1973, Motown had produced more than 100 top ten and number-one singles on various Billboard charts and had become the most successful black business company ever. By founding Motown Records, Gordy became the first African-American owner of a major recording label. He retired from being president of Motown Records in 1973 and from Motown Industries in 1988; he sold Motown's interest for $61 million to MCA Records and Boston Ventures. Gordy was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for his musical achievements the same year he sold Motown.

Robert Gordy[edit]

Robert Louis Gordy (1931 – ) is best known for playing a cameo in the Diana Ross-starring vehicle Lady Sings the Blues, playing a drug dealer named "Hawk". Also an early songwriter of several songs for the Motown label, Gordy recorded a 1958 novelty hit, titled "Everyone Was There", under the stage name Bob Kayli. He replaced Loucye Gordy as head of Jobete Music Publishing in 1965 after Loucye's death. Gordy is the father of Robert Louis Gordy, Jr.

Music groups formed consisting of family members[edit]

Apollo[edit]

A quintet formed by Kerry Gordy and his friends. Also in this group was Kerry's half-brother Cliff Liles, a son by Raynoma Mayberry Liles and Charles Liles.

LMFAO[edit]

A duo consisting of Skyler Austen ("Sky Blu") Gordy (born August 23, 1986), grandson of Berry Gordy, Jr. and Thelma Coleman through their son Berry Gordy IV and his wife Valerie Robeson, and Stefan Kendal ("Redfoo") Gordy (born September 3, 1975), son of Berry Gordy, Jr. and Nancy Leiviska.

Other family members[edit]

Iris Gordy[edit]

Iris Gordy (1943 - ) served as a vice president at Motown, where she helped launch the careers of DeBarge, Teena Marie, and Rick James. She currently sits on the board of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.[9] Iris is the daughter of Fuller Gordy.

Kerry Gordy[edit]

Son of Berry Gordy, Jr. and his second wife, Raynoma Mayberry, was a member of the band Apollo, which released an album on Gordy Records in 1979. Later, he worked as a staff writer and producer at Motown under his given name, Kerry Ashby. He continues to work as an entertainment industry executive today.

Rockwell[edit]

Son of Berry Gordy, Jr. and former girlfriend Margaret Norton, Kennedy William Gordy changed his name to Rockwell in 1983 to become a rock star. The singer, who earned his deal with Motown without his father's knowledge, recorded his biggest hit, 1984's "Somebody's Watching Me", which included background vocals by Michael Jackson. The song rose to number-two on the Billboard Hot 100. Rockwell turned out to be a one-hit wonder and after two more albums, he retired from music in the late 1980s.

Rhonda Ross Kendrick[edit]

Daughter of Berry Gordy, Jr. and Diana Ross, Rhonda garnered fame as an actress, first in the daytime soap Another World for which she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy and later in films like The Temptations, where she played Temptations original member Paul Williams' wife. She later embarked on a jazz career, which continues today.

Redfoo[edit]

Son of Berry Gordy, Jr. and Nancy Leiviska, Stefan Kendal Gordy is better known by his stage name Redfoo. Alongside his nephew Skyler Gordy, who himself is known as Sky Blu, he is a singer, rapper and dancer best known as part of the musical duo LMFAO. The two of them created their act in 2006 and have since released two studio albums.

Denise Gordy[edit]

Daughter of George and Rosemary Gordy, sister of George Jr and Patrice Gordy (among others), mother of Marvin Gaye III and Bianca Lawson, and grandmother of Marvin IV and Dylan Gaye. Denise appeared in television and theatrical productions throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Bianca Lawson[edit]

Daughter of Denise Gordy and Richard Lawson, Bianca, like her parents, achieved fame as an aspiring actress appearing in numerous television productions and theatrical releases. Appeared alongside Rhonda Ross Kendrick in the television miniseries The Temptations as Diana Ross.

Sky Blu[edit]

Son of Berry Gordy IV (Berry Gordy's son) and Valerie Robeson, Skyler Austen Gordy is better known by his stage name Sky Blu. Alongside his uncle Stefan Gordy, who himself is known as Redfoo, he is a singer, rapper and dancer best known as part of the musical duo LMFAO. The two of them created their act in 2006 and have since released two studio albums. He is also the brother of Mahogany Cheyenne Gordy (born October 4, 1994).

Family ties[edit]

The Gordys have at a few times been connected to other famous musicians and other notables over the years, mainly through Berry Gordy, either through marriage or relationships:

Note[edit]

As there are many Gordy family members, only notable family members are included in this listing.

References[edit]

External links[edit]