Kingsley Abbott’s otherwise excellent article Motown From The Beginning (RC 360) is marred by a glaring omission. Berry Gordy’s wife Raynoma Gordy Singleton was much more than one of the Rayber Voices. The name says it all, Rayber = Raynoma and Berry, co-founders of Motown. Despite this, her role in Motown’s history has been almost completely expunged.

Raynoma’s 1990 autobiography Berry, Me, and Motown – The Untold Story lays it all out. She was songwriter, arranger, producer, A&R, even engineer - a crack musician with perfect pitch who could write lead sheets and arrangements without a piano. She and Gordy together established the partnerships for Tamla Records and Jobete.

The forerunner for Jobete (named for Gordy’s three children Joy, Berry, and Terry) was the Rayber Music Writing Company. Gordy later had her change the partnerships to his name alone on the grounds that the company would look less like a ‘mom and pop operation’ and ‘for tax reasons’ – ‘it would be just simpler to have it in one name’. Simpler for him.

At the Motown 25 event in 1983, Raynoma was relegated to the balcony and her name was not mentioned once that evening. That is just wrong. She found the building on West Grand Blvd. in Detroit and ordered the sign reading ‘Hitsville USA’. Even Diana Ross calls her ‘Mother Motown’. It’s time for writers of Motown history to give Raynoma Gordy Singleton her dues.

by Robert Gallagher
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