cover image Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound

Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound

Andrea Davis Pinkney. Roaring Brook, $19.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-59643-973-3

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%E2%80%94songwriting, backup performance, artistic development%E2%80%94Berry 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%E2%80%94it 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%E2%80%9314. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Sept.)