Motown vs. Stax/Atlantic records

What are your thoughts on this controversy? Share with your classmates whether you feel that there is an underlying air of “selling out” in Motown productions.

In my opinion concerning the controversy, Motown records sold out more to the whites than the Stax/Atlantic records did. It is a fact that Motown was owned by blacks and thus all performers were black (2009). Motown records sold out to the whites because of Berry Gordy’s hard work and determination to concur the white man’s world. When Berry was founding Motown, “black power” days were still distant. Names of blacks such as Martin Luther King, Lena Horne, Thurgood Marshall and Sidney Poitier were popular Fitzgerald (2011). It’s tempting for anyone to interpret the crisp suits or sequined gowns of the average Motown act as pandering to the whites. More like Motown was buying in, it was selling out. Berry Gordy was raised in such a world, and it is the image he projected through Motown – not the face of black America, but “The Sound of Young America.”

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Do you feel that Stax/Atlantic records are indeed truer to black culture? Lastly, discuss whether you feel that there is much difference between the two groups of artists and their recordings.

Although they were white-owned, I feel that Stax/Atlantic records are truer to black culture than Motown. The musical style of Motown was aimed at a pop market than Stax/Atlantic. Stax was renowned for its output of African-American music. Unlike Motown where all were black, Stax songwriters were white and black while Stax band was 50 percent white and 50 percent white. Lastly, I don’t think there is much difference between the two groups of artists and their recordings. Both made large sales to attain their main goal. In some cases, Stax records sounded more like Motown records. A good example of this is Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street”. However, back-up vocal parts provided the main difference. Ownership also cleared the differences -Atlantic and Stax were white-owned while Motown was black-owned (Cooper, 2014).


Cooper, B. (2014). Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. Popular Music And Society, 38(2), 267-270.

Cruz G. (2009). A Brief History of Motown. Retrieved from,8599,1870975,00.html

Fitzgerald, J. (2011). Motown crossover hits 1963–1966 and the creative process. Popular Music, 14(01), 1-11.

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