Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound

by Andrea Davis Pinkney (Author)

Reading Level: 6th − 7th Grade

From award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney comes the story of the music that defined a generation and a movement that changed the world.

Berry Gordy began Motown in 1959 with an $800 loan from his family. He converted the garage of a residential house into a studio and recruited teenagers from the neighborhood-like Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross-to sing for his new label. Meanwhile, the country was on the brink of a cultural revolution, and one of the most powerful agents of change in the following decade would be this group of young black performers from urban Detroit. From Berry Gordy and his remarkable vision to the Civil Rights movement, from the behind-the-scenes musicians, choreographers, and song writers to the most famous recording artists of the century, Andrea Davis Pinkney takes readers on a Rhythm Ride through the story of Motown.

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School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 5 Up--A tour of the musical powerhouse's history done with verve and panache. "The Groove" takes readers through the birth and demise of Motown, one of the most influential African American-owned enterprises in the world's social and musical history. Centering around Gordy Berry, the talented tastemaker and eventual mogul, the ingenious narration highlights the company's humble beginnings--a pipe dream financed by Berry family's investment of $800--and embeds the stories of the many legends and stars that were born in its studios into the social upheavals and landmark events of the time. From the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and the Vietnam protests of the 1970s, these important milestones are interspersed throughout, bringing home the important place Motown had not only in the proliferation of rhythm and blues, rock, and disco into American culture but also its integration into the African American identity. The funky and melodic narrative style never wears thin and the familiar conceit helps make the darker parts of history age-appropriate for the audience. The thorough and detailed resources, photos, time line, and discography will encourage readers to want to learn more about the well-known Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye, and the not-so-well-known Funk Brothers--Motown's official studio band. VERDICT A well-crafted spin that will reverberate in the hearts of music, African American culture, and history buffs.--Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

In this clear, comprehensive history of Motown, Pinkney (The Red Pencil) narrates as "the Groove," a chatty, older guide to Berry Gordy Jr.'s music business. With well-chosen collaborators in every department--songwriting, backup performance, artistic development--Berry spotted and cultivated some of the best African-American musical talent of the era; Motown's stars in its 1960s heyday included The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, and Stevie Wonder. Thanks to Berry's ambitious innovations, Motown became "an assembly line that cranked out hit after hit after hit," achieved through exacting standards that included personal integrity offstage, the color of a performer's eye shadow, and on-stage moves. With folksy speech and catchy metaphors ("a voice that was spicy ginger and cream--it was gritty and mellow"), supported by clear headings and well-chosen photographs, the Groove detours into the "finishing" of artists, segregation, and the Detroit riots of 1968, though Pinkney omits discussions of other popular music of the 1960s. A useful chronology, selected discography, and source notes are included for readers seeking to explore the Motown sound further. Ages 10-14. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Sept.)

Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

A well-crafted spin that will reverberate in the hearts of music, African American culture, and history buffs. "School Library Journal, starred review"

Veteran author Pinkney takes readers on a road trip to Motownin a book that catches the excitement of Hitsville U.S.A. "Booklist, starred review"

An ebullient, wonderfully told introduction to music that had an indelible influence on a generation and its times. "Kirkus"

"Pinkney [...] delivers a memorable spin on Motown s unparalleled cultural and musical heritage." "The Washington Post""

Andrea Davis Pinkney
Andrea Davis Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books for children, many of them illustrated by her husband Brian Pinkney. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Roaring Brook Press
Publication date
September 20, 2015
BISAC categories
JNF007040 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Music
JNF025210 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | United States/20th Century
JNF036020 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Music | History
JNF036070 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Music | Rock
Library of Congress categories
United States
JUVENILE NONFICTION / Biography & Autobiograp
JUVENILE NONFICTION / History / United States
Sound recording industry
Motown Record Corporation

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