Berry Gordy facts: Motown founder's age, wife, children and net worth revealed
28 June 2021, 17:49 | Updated: 8 February 2022, 16:52
Berry Gordy is one of the most influential music figures of all time, thanks to his hugely successful Motown empire.
Berry Gordy Jr found fame and fortune as a record executive, producer, songwriter, film producer and TV producer.
He founded the Motown record label and its subsidiaries, which became the highest-earning African-American business for several decades.
He wrote or co-composed a number of classic hits including 'Shop Around' (The Miracles) 'Reet Petite' (Jackie Wilson) and 'Do You Love Me' (The Contours), and as part of The Corporation he wrote many hit songs for The Jackson 5, including 'I Want You Back' and 'ABC'.
As a producer, he launched acts such as the Miracles, and signed artists like Diana Ross and The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips and Stevie Wonder.
How old is Berry Gordy and where is he from?
Born Berry Gordy III (but known as Berry Gordy Jr), he was the seventh of eight children (Fuller, Esther, Anna, Loucye, George, Gwen, Berry and Robert).
He was born on November 28, 1929 in Detroit. He celebrated his 91st birthday in 2020.
Read more: Motown founder Berry Gordy announces retirement at 89: 'I have come full circle'
Berry was born into the middle-class family of Berry Gordy II (also known as Berry Gordy Sr). His grandfather, named Berry Gordy I, was the son of James Gordy, a white plantation owner in Georgia, and a woman he enslaved.
His half-brother, James (son of the older James and his wife), was the grandfather of President Jimmy Carter.
How did Berry Gordy start Motown?
Berry dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade, with the hopes of becoming a professional boxer, and boxed professionally until 1950, when he was drafted by the United States Army in 1951 during the Korean War.
Read more: The 25 greatest Motown songs of all time, ranked
After his return from Korea in 1953, he found an interest in music by writing songs and opening the 3-D Record Mart, a record shop with jazz music and 3-D glasses. Although unsuccessful, this led to Berry being put in touch with Al Green (not the singer), owner of the Flame Show Bar Talent Club, where he met the singer Jackie Wilson.
In 1957, Wilson recorded 'Reet Petite', a song Gordy co-wrote with sister Gwen and writer Billy Davis, which was the start of a run of hits.
Berry Gordy reinvested the profits from his songwriting into producing. In 1957, he discovered the Miracles (then known as the Matadors) and began building up a portfolio of artists.
In 1959, with help from Miracles singer Smokey Robinson, he borrowed $800 from his family to create an R&B record company.
He wanted to name the label Tammy Records, after the song recorded by Debbie Reynolds. However, as that name was taken, he chose the name Tamla Records. He later launched a second label called Motown, with both eventually merged into a new company, Motown Record Corporation in April 1960.
Is Berry Gordy married and how many children does he have?
Berry Gordy has been married and divorced three times, and has eight children in total.
He had three children with his first wife, Thelma Coleman, whom he was married from 1953 to 1959:
- Hazel Joy Gordy (born 1954), was once married to Jermaine Jackson
- Berry Gordy IV (born 1955), his son is LMFAO member Skyler aka Sky Blu
- Terry James Gordy (born 1956)
In 1960, he married Raynoma Mayberry Liles, and divorceed in 1964. They had one son together:
- Kerry Gordy (born 1959)
With partner Jeana Jackson, Berry Gordy had one daughter:
- Sherry Gordy (born 1960)
With his then-mistress Margaret Norton, Gordy also had a son who would later become known as Motown singer Rockwell, who had the hit 'Somebody's Watching Me':
- Kennedy William Gordy (born 1964)
Gordy then had a daughter with Motown legend Diana Ross, who he had a close relationship from 1965 to 1970. Her legal father is Robert Ellis Silberstein.
- Rhonda Suzanne (born 1971)
His eighth and youngest child was a son born to Nancy Leiviska. He is known by his stage name, Redfoo, and is one member of the duo LMFAO (along with Skyler Gordy, see above):
- Stefan Kendal Gordy (born 1975)
Berry Gordy later married Grace Eaton in 1990, but they divorced in 1993.
What is Berry Gordy's net worth?
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Berry Gordy has an estimated net worth of $400 million (£288m).