We gave it a B
While not nearly as titillating as its title suggests, Posner’s far-reaching chronicle of the Detroit music empire that spawned legends like the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Jackson 5 offers answers to some of the juicier questions about the label’s history. Did the Mafia take control of Motown when founder Berry Gordy’s gambling debts raged out of control? (No.) Did Gordy father Diana Ross’ first child? (Yes.) Was the Temptations’ Paul Williams murdered by Motown-hired thugs? (No.) Did the label accept suitcases of cash from distributors in a scheme to defraud artists of royalties? (Possibly, although Motown execs have denied it.) Amid all the piquant prose, Posner is most adept explaining how Gordy’s determination, ruthlessness, and good luck turned an $800 loan from his family into an industry monolith that changed American culture.