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Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound

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From award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney comes the story of the music that defined a generation and a movement that changed the world.

Berry Gordy began Motown in 1959 with an $800 loan from his family. He converted the garage of a residential house into a studio and recruited teenagers from the neighborhood-like Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross-to sing for his new label. Meanwhile, the country was on the brink of a cultural revolution, and one of the most powerful agents of change in the following decade would be this group of young black performers from urban Detroit. From Berry Gordy and his remarkable vision to the Civil Rights movement, from the behind-the-scenes musicians, choreographers, and song writers to the most famous recording artists of the century, Andrea Davis Pinkney takes readers on a Rhythm Ride through the story of Motown.

176 pages, Hardcover

First published September 29, 2015

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About the author

Andrea Davis Pinkney

54 books298 followers
Andrea Davis Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books for children, including the Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book Duke Ellington, illustrated by Brian Pinkney; Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and winner of the Carter G. Woodson Award; and Alvin Ailey, a Parenting Publication Gold medal winner.

Pinkney's newest books include Meet the Obamas and Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride, which has garnered three starred reviews and has been named one of the "Best Books of 2009" by School Library Journal. In 2010, Andrea's book entitled Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down, was published on the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro, North Carolina, sit-ins of 1960.

Her mother is a teacher and her father is a great storyteller, so growing up surrounded by books and stories is what inspired Andrea Davis Pinkney to choose a career as an author. The first official story she remembers writing was in second grade — it was about her family. Pinkney was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Connecticut. She went to Syracuse University, where she majored in journalism. After college, she followed her dream and worked as an editor for Essence magazine, but after watching her husband, Caldecott Award-winning artist Brian Pinkney, illustrate children's books, she decided to switch jobs and became involved in book publishing.

Andrea Davis Pinkney currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

For more information, please see http://www.answers.com/topic/andrea-d...

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5 stars
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185 (44%)
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74 (17%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 96 reviews
Profile Image for Kris (My Novelesque Life).
4,660 reviews189 followers
May 6, 2017
RHYTHM RIDE: A Road Trip Through Motown Sound
Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney
2015; 176 Pages (Roaring Books Press)
(I received an ARC from the NETGALLEY)
Rating: 4 Stars

(Review Not on Blog)

"Berry Gordy began Motown in 1959 with an $800 loan from his family. He converted the garage of a residential house into a studio and recruited teenagers from the neighborhood-like Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross-to sing for his new label. Meanwhile, the country was on the brink of a cultural revolution, and one of the most powerful agents of change in the following decade would be this group of young black performers from urban Detroit. From Berry Gordy and his remarkable vision to the Civil Rights movement, from the behind-the-scenes musicians, choreographers, and song writers to the most famous recording artists of the century, Andrea Davis Pinkney takes readers on a Rhythm Ride through the story of Motown." (From Publisher)

What a great day to read this (Women's March) as I really got into the era and music. I am a big fan of 1960s Motown so this was right up my alley. It is a book for children, but I still think it is a great book for any ages - a good beginner's book. I enjoyed Pinkney's writing and the way she transforms you in the time and place where Motown began.
Profile Image for Monica Edinger.
Author 6 books338 followers
November 15, 2015
Loved the Groove, loved the ride, loved the clear and focused writing, loved the respectful way the Groove recognized that today's young readers might need context here and there, loved that it is about Motown and NOT its influence on other music (something one reviewer complained about)...basically just loved it.
Profile Image for Ettore Pasquini.
135 reviews112 followers
July 17, 2015
I really liked that this quick history of Motown begins by describing the founder, Berry Gordy. He started out as a boxing fighter (!) and most importantly as a humble worker at Ford, where he learned how the assembly line works. He then implemented the assembly line idea into Motown. Motown worked with a group of song writers, a core of "backup" musicians, and finally the stars / lead singers. Everyone was interchangeable, allowing Motown to steadily put out a ton of (great) music.

Quality was the most important thing. Songs needed to be so good that people would prefer spending their lunch money on the record rather than on food. (Which reminds me Marc Andreessen's — actually, Steve Martin's — “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”) They had reoccurring Friday meetings to decide if a song was awesome enough.

They weren’t immune of errors though. One of the songs that was initially rejected was What's Going On by Marvin Gaye... a song that Gordy reputed way too political. Only after pressure from other executives and Marvin Gaye himself was the song (and the following album) published — and then it became their best seller of all times.

Another good thing about this book is that it provides some (well, just a little bit of) context of the times. The civil rights movement, the racial tensions, the riots… good photos too. There’s an aerial photo during the 1967 riots where Detroit looks like a war-zone.

I think things started to slowly change when Gordy moved the HQ from the original house on West Grand to downtown Detroit in 1968, and then to LA in 1972. Up until that point Motown was deeply connected to the neighborhood, with kids hanging around for a job or an audition at Hitsville USA. How cool was that! Many stars started like that: Aretha Franklin, Martha Reeves, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells…

I snubbed R&B for the longest time, I admit it. The sugar coating on top of these songs came off to me as insincere, and just turned me off. I was so wrong. The kids behind the Motown "school” (which btw included manners and choreography, beside the music) were taken from the streets just like the punk bands I grew up with: like them, they put a ton of passion into it and had a close network of other musicians to look up to. Differently from the punk-rockers, these guys also had somebody who looked after them. It’s this close-knit circuit (local roots, peers, talent, education, label) that allowed all the amazing stuff to happen.
Profile Image for Richie Partington.
1,104 reviews129 followers
November 13, 2015
Richie’s Picks: RHYTHM RIDE: A ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE MOTOWN SOUND by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Roaring Brook, September 2015, 176p., ISBN: 978-1-59643-973-3

“Smiles have all turned to tears
But tears won’t wash away the fears
That you’re never ever gonna return
To ease the fire that within me burns
It keeps me crying baby for you
Keeps me sighin’ baby for you
So won’t you hurry
Come on boy, see about me”
--Holland-Dozier-Holland (1964)

“R&B was a soulful sound that put its arms around listeners and rocked them, sometimes gently, other times with a sure sway. It was popular in cities across America. But like many aspects of life in the United States, R&B wasn’t free to roam where it pleased. This was a time in America when segregation laws prevented black students and white students from attending the same public schools. When drinking fountains and restaurants wore signs that said ‘Colored’ and ‘Whites Only.’ When movie theaters and hotels didn’t let black customers past the front door.
The same was true for R&B. Prejudice tried to keep it out. Hold it back. Limit its soul-rousing power. Rhythm and blues was called ‘race music’--songs meant only for black singers and black listeners.
As R&B’s popularity started to spread, it was kids who first realized that the concept behind race music made no sense. Rhythm doesn’t have a color--it just has a beat. And the blues, well, everybody gets the blues.”

If you lived through the sixties and know most of the songs mentioned in this book, you might want be careful. After reading RHYTHM RIDE right before bedtime, I was awakened in the middle of the night by Supremes and Jackson 5 songs running through my dreams.

On the other hand, if you’re a young person who can’t readily cue up a Miracles, Temptations, Four Tops, or Martha and the Vandellas tune in your head, you’re not going to get the full effect of this outstanding musical and cultural history unless you have the soundtrack. Here’s a Motown playlist I just put together for you:
It’s a blast to peer behind the scenes of 1960s Motown. Secretaries turn into pop stars. In Friday morning meetings, writers pitch their latest compositions and everyone votes for their favorite new tune, which is then recorded and released. There are the unsung heroes of the Motown family: Maxine Powell, known in-house as “Miss Manners,” who teaches the young performers elegance and etiquette; Cholly Atkins, who runs the choreography program; The Funk Brothers, musicians who play on virtually all of Motown’s recordings; and, of course, the composers of these unforgettable songs.

In the years that Motown was gaining steam, Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed, Dr. King shared his dream, Medgar Evers was assassinated, and the march from Selma to Montgomery took place. During those tumultuous times, Motown founder Berry Gordy had a significant impact on American race relations by building an assembly line for creating R&B hits that crossed over to young white audiences.

It didn’t matter what neighborhood you lived in. The soundtrack for the lives of millions of young Baby Boomers was dominated by Motown and The Beatles. Motown connected white suburban kids to the culture of the people who were still not permitted to buy houses in white suburban neighborhoods. Dancing and swaying to Motown songs was a pleasure that crossed racial and cultural lines, one that people across America could enjoy together.

“...[T]hat’s the Motown legacy. Born at a time of so much struggle, so much strife, it taught us that what unites us will always be stronger than what divides us.”
--President Barack Obama

What a fine ride it is, cruising through this chronicle of Motown and the America in which it took place. Tune in and turn up the volume on Andrea Davis Pinkney’s well-written and extremely-fun history of Motown.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_...
Profile Image for Morgan.
819 reviews23 followers
February 10, 2017
Really fascinating look at the behind-the-scenes of Motown--its rise, fall, and the eventual sale of the company. I was familiar with almost all the artists and most of the songs (thanks, Mom), but had no idea about the backstories for many of the artists--Marvin Gaye had to fight Berry Gordy to get "What's Goin' On" (song and album) released; Martha Reeves was a Motown secretary before getting her big break when Mary Wells missed her studio appointment; Stevie Wonder's name is Steveland Morris; because of Wonder's mother's overbearing demands, Gordy was reluctant to sign the Jackson 5 and deal with more child-labor laws; and more.

The book is narrated by an omniscient narrator who speaks directly to the reader, who takes us on a tour of Detroit and ends in Hollywood, where Gordy continued to spread his empire. The Detroit riots, murders of RFK and MLK, upheaval of Vietnam and Civil Rights, and other historical moments are highlighted along the way. Ultimately, though, this is a celebration of the joy and magic that was Motown. I found myself bobbing my head as I heard the songs in my head, and smiled as yet another familiar musician was introduced. It would have been easy to focus on the major acts--Diana and the Supremes, the Temptations, the Jackson 5--but credit is given to behind-the-scenes figures who wrote the songs, dressed the performers, taught them to dance, taught them poise and stage presence, managed their money (for the younger performers, the money was in a trust), and the acts that have often been overshadowed but laid the foundation for the bigger acts to come. This is undoubtedly a sanitized version of the story, but again, the emphasis is on the celebration and joy of this Black-owned label and pride this label instilled in listeners. There are some slight critiques of Gordy's reluctance to be politically involved (hence his initial refusal to let Gaye record "What's Goin' On"), but overall, he oversaw a highly successful business that provided an outlet for musicians and performers who would not otherwise have been given opportunities.
217 reviews2 followers
October 2, 2015
I grew up worshiping the Motown sound and every month I walked to the newsstand to buy Right On magazine to read (and obsess) about the comings and goings of the Jackson Five, Diana Ross and other Motown stars. Rhythm Ride, written for middle school and older children, is a fast-paced, fun and lyrical trip through the history of Motown. We learn about the talented, and driven African-Americans who made the Sound of Young America omnipresent while also learning about the history of the the Civil Rights movement. Narrated by the "Groove" a deeply knowledgeable, expressive and passionate entity (we don't know who it is), the Groove takes us through the ups and downs and excitement of that time.

One of the best parts of the book was seeing how the company was built, star by star, song by song with everybody having to compete and elbow their way into the Motown sound. Everybody had the potential to be heard and count. The other part of the book that I really appreciated is that the Groove does not mince words about the racial issues of the time and really calls out how Black people were dehumanized and exploited by Whites. The Groove tells it like it is but also reminds us to take care of ourselves and comfort ourselves as we learn this harsh history. It is put into context of the Motown story and is real and right yet hopeful as we learn about the people who were working to make change and also make great music.

I do think that the author glosses over some of the difficulties that the stars and musicians, etc had about getting a fair share from Berry Gordy. By the end there was hard feelings about money, etc. and I don't think it should be a big part of the story I think it should be noted.

My daughter is 10 years old and I can't wait to give her a copy of this book.

Thank you for allowing me to review this book for an honest opinion.
Profile Image for Sharon.
302 reviews
February 5, 2017
I thoroughly enjoyed and savored, Andrea Davis Pinkney's Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound What a pleasurable journey down Memory Lane this book provided for me! I remember listening to all that wonderful music on WHBC am radio during my childhood. Dancing along with the Jackson 5 and so many other talented Motown artists, whenever they appeared on TV. This book provided such a fun and accessible introduction to Motown for my daughter. We loved looking at the photos - the clothing, the hairstyles - it was a glimpse into an era of class and style that I fear will not pass our way again.

I loved the voice of "The Groove" - how "The Groove" was at the beginning of Motown's story and still goes on in the music of today. "The Groove" is a historian, who doesn't make light of the serious issues that existed during this time, but presents these challenges as a part of Motown's story and weaves tragic events into the fabric of Motown. Music ties all races together, providing a soundtrack of joy, celebration, protest and conscience to humanity.

Berry Gordy had a unique vision for Motown and he created a family and a musical legacy, by the sheer force of his determination and his ability to spot the talent & gifts of these young artists. As with many enterprises - jealousy, greed, ego come into the mix, but the foundation of Motown, created from investments from Berry Gordy's immediate family, was a force that changed perceptions in the United States and echoed around the world.

Profile Image for Diana.
168 reviews37 followers
January 3, 2016
Very enjoyable! This unique biography/musical history tells the popular story of the rise of Motown while also capturing the social tensions of the time. Like the music of Motown, the story of the label, the artists, and its creator - Berry Gordy - is very compelling and enjoyable. It's a story that's interested people for years, but Pinkney's telling is something a little different. She writes the journey of music or "the groove" through the decades from the first person perspective of the groove and a young passenger who she has taken along for the ride.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, and I honestly kind of drug my feet on reading it, but it turned out to be a nice, quick read. I love how much of the music, fashion, and culture was so easily provided in the book. As soon as I finished the book, I jumped onto Spotify to listen to the songs cataloged in the back matter which was pretty awesome. The story feels topical and interesting and the music is amazing so this one is a win/win.
Profile Image for Mary Louise Sanchez.
Author 1 book21 followers
August 30, 2016
The attractive book cover caught my eye as I was browsing the children's book display and I had to check it out and find out about Motown.

I was a Hispanic teenager during the 1960s and had no idea how hard Barry Gordon worked to make his dream come true, but I knew I liked Motown music and so did the other teenagers, from various cultures, I knew.

What fun it was to turn up the radio dial once again and to relive those by-gone days, with the bonus of background information this time around to complete the Motown picture for me. Who knew Barry Gordon was a professional boxer at one time or that Marvin Gaye had problems performing because he got so nervous? I especially enjoyed learning about the finishing school Mowtown provided for its performers, taught by Maxine Powell; and the stories of how various songs came about.

The photographs, author's note, timeline of Motown, source notes about the chapters, and the hit parade of music through the years add reference material to the story. A book I will take for a spin again and again!
Profile Image for Liza.
471 reviews
July 12, 2016
I can't wait to hear Andrea Davis Pinkney speak to the kids at my school this fall! The book brought me through memory lane, as I remembered the many songs that were such major parts of my life. The tone and story telling of the book were great. I loved how she was able to weave the history of the times with the stories of the music and the stories of the many members of Motown. Great fun to read.....although, my heart is also breaking that we still have so far to go with our Race relations. I continue to pray that music can bring us together and through this dark rain cloud we are in right now.
Profile Image for Paula.
Author 2 books220 followers
December 4, 2015
I read Rhythm Ride while my husband was reading Once in a Great City by David Maraniss. Both books covered Berry Gordy and the unique factors that made Detroit ground zero for hit after hit after hit throughout the 60's and 70's. But Andrea's book reads like your cool auntie telling you a story, and Bob didn't finish the Maraniss book. So there.

All my picks for best books to give this holiday are at http://www.unadulterated.us/pink-me/2...
Profile Image for Sara.
343 reviews1 follower
March 9, 2016
Definitely made me want to listen to a lot of Motown music. I read this at the same time as The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, and it was interesting to compare Motown as a "factory" to the modern hit factory, and the amount of control exerted over the music. Obviously as a children's book this didn't go too deeply into the darker side of that control - it presented Berry Gordy's control over Motown artists' work and lives in a pretty positive light.
Profile Image for Molly Dettmann.
1,449 reviews22 followers
May 15, 2016
1. Snazzy cover
2. Interesting and thorough history of Motown Records and Berry Gordy
3. I could hear all the music mentioned in my mind as I was reading this. It made for a very fun read! For kids who might not listen to their local oldies station, it might be cool to have them listen to some songs on YouTube at least, before and after reading this book. I can see this being kind of boring if you'd never heard any of the music before.
3,794 reviews20 followers
December 1, 2015
I loved this book. The writing was fun and clearly structured for young readers who may not know anything about this subject. Wonderful design and photographs! The only thing I wished for was a sound track, although there certainly was one running through my head ;-)
1 review
August 12, 2020
I would rate "Rythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound" a 4 out of 5 stars. The book "Rythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound" chronicles the up rise of one of the most iconic genre admits the civil rights movement, and it's tragic fall from grace. "Rythm Ride: A Road Trip Through The Motown Sound" by Andrea Davis Pinkney follows Berry Gordy's label and artists affect on the civil rights movement. The narrator throughout the book takes on the role of a radio host, by using this narrator Andrea Davis Pinkney gave the story exciting language, and unique perspective. The Theme of the book is cultures and the arts can influence the importants of social value in a society. The narrator made the story because it gave the reader a perspective of what the civil right era was like. An example of this is when MLK died and the narrator expressed emotion of thankfulness to the motown singers for stepping up as leaders. The dialouge was very suspensful it was especially suspensful when singers would leave and how was motown going to react. For example when Diana Ross left the supremes it left the reader thinking about if the supremes could say standing. I would recommend this book for people who like history especially the civil rights era I would also suggest this book for teens and adults more so because there is some violence.
Profile Image for Jo Oehrlein.
6,327 reviews9 followers
February 19, 2018
Late elementary or middle school book about Berry Gordy and Motown records. It's picture book format, but too thick to really be a picture book.

Great to go with a study of the 1960s or Civil Rights. Would also pair well with a trip to see the musical Motown.

Illustrated with photos and the captions to the photos provide information, also. Love the page numbers styled as records.

Told directly to the reader, breaking the 4th wall about once per chapter.

It doesn't gloss over the problems, but does minimize some of the conflict near the end.

Everything will make more sense if you can hear some of the songs, so the best way to read the book would be after listening to Motown music.
Profile Image for Debbie.
1,419 reviews
October 18, 2019
What an amazing story. I have never read a book about Motown, muchless one aimed at the middle/high school reader. From the opening section, when the Groove does some introducing, I was hooked. The structure of a road trip is revisited so frequently that I never forgot the name of the book, and I really considered it more like a story (a timeline) than ancient history. Pinkney also didn't pull any punches, mentioning some really tragic events in American history and how Motown reacted, and admitting when Berry Gordy may have made some mistakes. Truly enjoyed this book.

The theme of the road trip, as introduced right from the beginning, would be a great example of a repetend for multigenre research projects.
326 reviews4 followers
August 6, 2021
In high school, when everyone was listening to 90s music, I had my radio dial set to Oldies 103.5 and the bubble-gum sound of the Supremes and Marvin Gaye. Motown was my happy place, so I absolutely loved this journey through the history of Berry Gordy and Motown's beginnings. Pinkney writes from the perspective of "the groove," which makes for a fun and compelling narration. It's so well written. I read the book with my phone on my lap so I could cue up all my favorites songs as I read about them. Pure bliss. My only complaint is that while I love all these non-fiction middle grade books, I don't love their larger-than-normal print size. I imagine it's for the photo spreads, but it's a bit unwieldy to read. *Read this book for my master's program.
Profile Image for Rikki.
765 reviews21 followers
January 24, 2020
Read alikes:
Brown Girl Dreaming
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom

Questions to ask:
What was Stevie Wonder's first hit with Motown?
Fingertips Part I
What did the sign say that was on the house where Motown started?
Hitsville USA
Who was the young Motown performer who became the first person born after Billboard magazine had established the Hot 100 list to reach the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Songles chart?
Michael Jackson
Why did so many performers start to get annoyed with Berry Gordy?
Because he was focusing all of his attention on Diana Ross
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kate.
Author 1 book4 followers
March 20, 2020
I had wanted to read a general history of Motown, and my local library was woefully short of such books, but they did have a children's book: Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney. I found it very informative and well-written. Pinkney gives the book a narrator -- the Groove -- with a distinctive voice, and for the most part it works. If you're interested in Motown, this is worth reading.
Profile Image for Marcos.
93 reviews2 followers
March 12, 2022
Although written specifically for the YA crowd, this (under 150 page) book documents the rise and domination of Motown Records- from the birth of founder, Berry Gordon in 1929 until being sold in 1997. It chronicles the struggles for equality and recognition, and goes behind the songs that have become part of the foundation of the U.S..
Profile Image for Gina.
Author 5 books24 followers
September 8, 2022
Good introduction to Motown's history and significance, probably for about ages 10-12.

Though told with a fairly light touch, it still covers some serious subjects, and includes a lot of feeling, not surprising for an author whose father sang "My Girl" to her mother before proposing, and whose cousin was a deejay on the scene.

Lots of interesting information I hadn't known.
Profile Image for Clare Lund.
606 reviews7 followers
September 12, 2019
An authoritative history of Motown, written at an accessible level for younger readers. Very informative and enjoyable, with Andrea Davis Pinkney’s trademark lyrical writing style. Ages 12 and up, especially for those with an interest in music.
January 22, 2020
3.5 stars. Lots of great information. I took some stars away because although I enjoyed the narrator voice in the intro, it got a bit old and felt condescending as the story progressed. I also felt like this was very text heavy for a children’s book.
157 reviews
August 3, 2020
This book had some interesting info, but I just expected more. I somehow missed that it is a young person's book, so things are a little bit soft soaped. But it's a nice walk down memory lane for those of us who grew up with Motown, and it has some fun pictures.
Profile Image for Maeve.
2,105 reviews21 followers
June 10, 2021
An introduction to Motown Music, and a history of its creation in 1950s-1960s Detroit by Berry Gordy and his family. It covers Gordy's childhood, creation of the Motown record label, various bands formed in Detroit, and modern-day artists that were influenced by Motown sound.
Profile Image for Erin.
3,827 reviews46 followers
September 8, 2023
An interesting biography of Motown. I liked the way it was the Groove telling the story, and appreciated where that came from. I can only imagine how cool it would be as an audiobook with the playlist in the background.
Profile Image for Josh.
108 reviews
March 12, 2018
A children's book written for adults about motown.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 96 reviews

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