Rockwell is the son of Motown founder and CEO Berry Gordy and Margaret Norton. His father named him Kennedy William Gordy after John F. Kennedy and William “Smokey” Robinson. To avoid seeming nepotistic, he secured his record deal without his father’s knowledge. Motown actually came up with the name Rockwell and the young Gordy agreed to the change because he believed he “rocked well.”
In 1984, Rockwell released his biggest hit single, “Somebody’s Watching Me“, featuring childhood friend Michael Jackson on guest vocals (notably in the chorus lyrics), and Jermaine Jackson singing back-up. “Somebody’s Watching Me” became a Top 10 pop hit in both the US and UK, and a #1 R&B hit. Follow-up singles underperformed, however, with single “Obscene Phone Caller”, being Rockwell’s only other Top 40 single. This follow-up single reached #35 on the Billboard Hot 100. Rockwell soon ended his musical career with Motown.
Rockwell’s paternal half-sister is actress Rhonda Ross Kendrick, the eldest child of Diana Ross. Rockwell is also closely related to the group LMFAO through his half-brother Redfoo (Stefan Kendal Gordy, son of Berry Gordy and Nancy Leiviska) and his nephew SkyBlu (son of half-brother Berry Gordy IV and his wife Valerie Robeson).