This is all Berry Gordy’s fault.
Berry Gordy is music industry royalty. He’s a songwriter, executive, and founder of the legendary Motown Records. He also produced one of my favorite films ever, “The Last Dragon.” He is renowned as a music visionary with a keen eye for talent and exceptional business acumen. In order to achieve his dreams, sometimes he had to tell a white lie every now and then.
Gordy convinced Marvin Gaye and Valerie Simpson to record duet songs to be released by Gaye and Tammi Terrell, who at the time was dying of a brain tumor, with the promise that the song’s royalties would go towards Terrell’s medical expenses. Gordy had a child out of wedlock with Motown artist Diana Ross and convinced her to marry her manager Robert Ellis Silberstein. The Jackson 5 had their first major hit with “I Want You Back” and Gordy convinced lead singer Michael Jackson to pretend he was younger than he was while doing promo for the song. And last but not least, Gordy convinced Stevie Wonder to go along with pretending that he was blind.
Yes, you heard that correctly. Stevie Wonder can see. ALLEGEDLY, similar to getting Jackson to lie about his age, Gordy thought it was a better marketing plan if you coupled Wonder’s generational talent with the fact that he was unable to see. In fact, Wonder’s second studio album “Tribute to Uncle Ray” was composed of only covers of Ray Charles songs in an attempt to link him to and profit off another blind piano player’s legacy. Wonder’s actual eyesight loss can be attributed to retinopathy of prematurity, but it makes for some very interesting tidbits that have later come out about his life.
Anthony Anderson has a story about losing a free throw contest to Stevie Wonder. There’s also the time when Wonder got to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams and be a TV camerman for TMZ. While performing with Paul McCartney at the White House, Wonder was able to catch a falling microphone that McCartney had knocked over on his way by. NBA legend Darryl Dawkins claims that Stevie Wonder gave him the nickname “Chocolate Thunder”, though it’s unclear how Wonder would have known he was dark-skinned. And Bomani Jones has anecdotes for days regarding Stevie’s ability to see. Whether you believe these stories or not, it doesn’t change the fact that Gordy, Wonder and the rest of Motown were supremely talented.
These are simply sweet little lies.
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