DETROIT (AP) — She didn’t sing a note or write a lick of a lyric, but Smokey Robinson contends that Maxine Powell was as essential to Motown Records’ operation as the legendary label’s songwriters, producers and musicians.
Powell was in charge of the artists’ personal development. And Robinson, a bard of the American romantic songbook and one of the chief architects of “the Motown sound” produced in Detroit from the late 1950s to the early ’70s, paid tribute to Powell on Monday night during an invitation-only event at the former Hitsville, U.S.A., studio in Detroit that now serves as the Motown Historical Museum.
“She was such an important, integral part of what we were doing here at Motown,” said Robinson, who has upcoming Michigan gigs in the Detroit area and Grand Rapids and is working on an album of duets with various artists due out next year.
“It didn’t matter who you became during the course of your career — how many hits you had, how well your name was known around the world,” Robinson said. “Two days a week when you were back in Detroit you had to go to artists’ development. It was mandatory. You went there and learned so many things about being in show businesses.”
Powell directed the label’s Artists Development Department, also known as “Motown’s Finishing School.” She guided many, including Robinson’s Miracles, the Jackson Five and the Supremes.
She emphasized how artists should carry themselves, treat people and dress. And the training school was the only one of its kind offered at any record label, according to Powell and Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., who paid tribute to her via videotape. Gordy joked that he still remembers many of Powell’s aphorisms, including “Do not protrude the buttocks,” and “Do not confuse me with your parents — they’re stuck with you. I’m not.”
“You had style,” Gordy said. “You gave them class.”
Powell came to Detroit from her native Chicago, where she had been an actress and dramatic reader. She opened a finishing and modeling school in Detroit, believing, as she says, she “could offer some class and style to Detroit.”
The lessons have long since stuck with singer Martha Reeves, who said she retained Powell during her four-year term on the Detroit City Council that ended in 2009. Powell visited schools and retirement homes to develop poise and pride in students and residents, Reeves said.
Reeves remembered going through those lessons with her group, The Vandellas, alongside the Supremes and others.
“We thought we knew everything because we could sing and dance, but she taught us how to stand and how to carry ourselves,” Reeves said. “She made a difference in all of our lives.”
Powell, who adamantly refuses to reveal her age but is well into her 90s, told the crowd that she “will teach until there’s no breath left in my body.”
“I love all the Motown artists,” she said. “This has been a blessing. I thank God for allowing me to be here.”
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
1 of 31
2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
2 of 31
3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
3 of 31
4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
4 of 31
5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
5 of 31
6 of 31
7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
7 of 31
8 of 31
9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
9 of 31
10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
10 of 31
11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
11 of 31
12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
12 of 31
13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
13 of 31
14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
14 of 31
15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
15 of 31
16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
16 of 31
17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
17 of 31
18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
18 of 31
19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
19 of 31
20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
20 of 31
21. Bae #retailtherapy
21 of 31
22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
22 of 31
23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
23 of 31
24. Diggy Simmons
24 of 31
25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
25 of 31
26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
26 of 31
27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
27 of 31
28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
28 of 31
29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
29 of 31
30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
30 of 31
31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
31 of 31