Reviews of Motown Books -
Motown: Music, Money,
Sex, and Power

Motown books: Posner cover

By Gerald Posner, 2002

Out of all the Motown books on my must-read list, this one was at the top.

Turns out it didn't deserve to be.

My main beef? It lifts many passages directly from Berry Gordy's To Be Loved.

Granted, one Motown history book will probably contain the same facts as another. Posner's background is investigative journalism, so his research (based on "extensive documentation," interviews, and independent verification of sources) ought to be solid.

Yet I think he relies way too heavily on the Gordy autobiography. The intimate details regarding certain events, the progression of people's thoughts and feelings, repeated dialogue, and the similar--if not identical--word choices for retold trivia bewilder me. Posner could have put large chunks of the book in quotation marks.

That said, if I hadn't read Gordy's book first, then I'd be fairly satisfied by Posner's. His writing is fleet, very easy to read. He seamlessly incorporates quotations from important Motown figures, and in doing so brings some of them--like Marvin Gaye--back to life.

He also assesses the festering rumors about Motown gypping its artists of royalties and the Mafia running the company. The business and legal intrigue is the least intriguing part, however. Those tidbits don't really appear until well into the book, and the newness doesn't overcome the dullness of a shopping list.

At the same time, it feels intrusive when Posner inserts an opinion. His critique of Diana Ross's autobiography is entertainingly merciless, but over the top within his objective guise. So the author can't win on that front!

Torrid interpersonal relations and choice photos do add zing to this Motown story. As should its hybrid of narrative, book reviews, and journalistic distance. But ultimately, that mix just...doesn't.

Bottom line? It's a great compilation of earlier bios and varying perspectives about Motown. Yet much of what "nobody knows" is not new, and Posner often drains the juice from the stuff that is. I recommend this book for research, but not necessarily pleasure.

For my look at other Motown books, click to the main reviews page!

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