A Motown Reading List

On September 27, 2019

We know you’re champing at the bit to get at your Motown Anthology box set, but don’t worry, they’ll be making your way from our warehouse to you soon. In the meantime, we’re sharing this with you, a Motown reading list. I read more than 20 books to get prepared to do the Motown podcast, and here are the best books about Motown to read while you wait for the box set to be delivered. Should be soon, so read some of these quick.


Peter Benjaminson
The Story Of Motown

Probably the most concise, well-constructed history of the Motown label, if you’re looking for a quick, semi-comprehensive tour of its history.


Nelson George
Where Did Our Love Go: The Rise And Fall Of The Motown Sound

This book is old — originally published in 1986 — but it’s a fun read for how much tea it spills about Motown artists and the stories of the label. The money quote is “there are no heroes or villains at Motown, just complicated people.”


Mark Ribowsky
Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Enduring Soul of the Temptations

The most complete biography of the Temptations, a delight to read, and spares no detail.


Adam White
Motown: The Sound Of Young America

A massive coffee table book that combines insider stories with beautiful images from the label’s golden days. Get this to sit on your coffee table to inspire people to ask you to play Motown vinyl.


Berry Gordy
To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown: An Autobiography

It feels like Mr. Gordy keeps a lot of his cards pressed firmly to his chest but, if nothing else, you get the story from the man himself, at a time when he sold Motown and got out of the music business.


Peter Benjaminson
Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motown's First Superstar

Another must-read from Benjaminson, this is a book detailing one of the most undersung divas in Motown history. It’s worth it for the story of how Wells fought to get out of her record contract (at her husband’s behest) and how it changed things for Motown artists after her.


Mark Ribowsky
Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: The Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder

Stevie might be the most iconic artist in Motown history to modern eyes, but the craziest part of this book is how long Berry Gordy held on to Stevie, despite everyone being sure he didn’t have it, and should be cut loose from the label. That Gordy let Stevie develop into the master he was in the ’70s is a testament to him.


Martha Reeves
Dancing in the Street: Confessions of a Motown Diva

Reading this is like being at a cocktail party with Martha Reeves herself, dishing on the comings and goings and inside baseball things from years of Motown — she started as a secretary before becoming one of the label’s early stars. One of the breeziest memoirs you’ll read.


Peter Benjaminson
The Lost Supreme: The Life Of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard

An illuminating and raw book about the short, complicated life of Florence Ballard, the Supreme who was forced out of the group in 1967 and the inspiration for the musical Dreamgirls. It’s a must-read for Supremes fans, and also good for talking about the early days of Motown.

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Andrew Winistorfer

Andrew Winistorfer is Director of Music at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard and The Story of Willie Nelson. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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