The Remarkable Musical History of Motown

Brandeis University

Gil Harel is a musicologist and music theorist who lectures widely at Brandeis University and additional venues on topics ranging from renaissance motets to atonal opera. A piano accompanist and vocal coach, Professor Harel’s musical interests range from western classical repertoire to musical theater and jazz. Previously, he has served on the faculty at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, China, and at CUNY Baruch College, where he was awarded the prestigious “Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching.”



A History of Motown Music

As rock music ascended to unprecedented heights in the 20th century, many sub-genres emerged reflecting elements connected to culture and geography. Among the most successful and sonically entrancing of these are the styles intertwined with African American musicians and producers of this period. This transmutation of traditional rock melded with rhythm and blues became broadly known as “Motown,” after the city that served as unofficial headquarters during this remarkable period. Often eschewing the simplicity of established rock and roll standards, songs from these idioms typically evince nuanced chord progressions, incisive rhythms, complex and layered harmony, and a bold, improvisational singing approach that is often cited as reflecting consciousness and pride in being black.

Most Influential Motown Artists in History 

Join Professor Gil Harel as he explores the history of “Hitsville, USA” and discusses important artists including Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, and Marvin Gaye, as well as iconic groups such as the Temptations, the Supremes, and the Jackson Five.

Learn More About The History of Motown

Learn more about the history of Motown by checking out our other music lectures here. Access to all recorded history lectures comes standard with our membership, click here to learn more. Please note: all Livestream (Upcoming) times are in EDT unless otherwise noted.



1 reviews
5 stars
100 %
4 stars
0 %
3 stars
0 %
2 stars
0 %
1 star
0 %
Natalye Delegal

very informative

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about Motown and its start. I thought Mr. Harel was very knowledgeable and engaging. Thank you.

1 year ago
Scroll to Top