Motown legend Maxine Powell has passed away, sparking a warm tribute from Berry Gordy.
In its early years, Motown was a machine where each part carried equal importance. Young performers - often from impoverished backgrounds - would enter the studio, and be put through a rigorous training process.
Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson and more handled songwriting, while The Funk Brothers were on hand to breeze through the latest arrangement. Ever understated, Maxine Powell's role was amongst the most important, the most defining of them all.
Maxine Powell was head of the Motown Finishing School - a place where artists learned to handle themselves with grace and poise. Everyone from Diana Ross to Stevie Wonder, The Temptations to The Marvelettes passed through her care, and each were installed with good manners and a sense of purpose which ripples through their career.
Passing away earlier this week at the age of 98, Maxine Powell's death sparked a rare public statement from Berry Gordy. Warm and eloquent, it reveals a little of the atmosphere which fuelled Hitsville USA.
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Maxine Powell was not only a very special lady, she was unique in every way. She brought something to Motown that no other record company had. She was a star in her own right - an original. She will always be remembered for her style and class, and she instilled that into the Motown artists by teaching them how to walk, talk and even think with class.
She was tough, but when she got through with them, they were poised, professional…and very thankful.
“I love you all,” she’d say, “but don’t confuse me with your mother--she’s stuck with you, I’m not! Ladies, remember your gloves, walk with class like you were taught -- and always remember, do not protrude the buttocks. One day you will perform for the Kings and Queens of Europe, but for now we must make the best of it on the circuit of the Chit-ter-ling.”
She was not only smart, but very funny.
Maxine Powell will always be a great part of the Motown family and legacy. We miss her and will always love her.
Founder of Motown
October 14, 2013
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