Berry Gordy, at Michael Jackson’s memorial service, just asked “what kid would not give his right arm to fulfill his childhood dreams?”
“He learned the skill at the feet of the master who eventually broke his heart–Berry Gordy, who dropped a career as a boxer for music, first as a record-store owner, then as a first-rate songwriter (he wrote Jackie Wilson’s “Reet Petite”) and finally as the founder and force behind one of the most evocative names in music, Motown Records…. Motown’s usual artist contract was exploitative even by the standards of the day, surpassing the infamous achievements of the seminal blues labels through the simple expedient of getting all the exploitation down on paper. Joseph Jackson didn’t read the contract he signed for the boys; he thought he was committing them for one year but in effect Motown locked them in for five; their royalty rate amounted to roughly a dime per album–say $100,000 for a million records sold–minus whatever the label spent on the band, for recording and just about anything else.
“If you think great art comes at a cost, and sometimes it’s the artist who pays, you’re probably sanguine about the conditions that produced the unaccountably memorable music the Jackson 5 created.”