Aug 27, 2013

By Scott Walker

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She never wrote a note or a syllable of music, never sang in public, and never performed on a music video.

But Maxine Powell was hailed last night at a tribute in Detroit as a critical part of the Motown sound.

Powell was hired by Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., to run the Personal Development Department of the label, known as “Motown’s Finishing School”. She taught the label’s roster how to dress, how to walk, how to act in public. Motown was the only label to offer that kind of instruction.

Motown superstar Smokey Robinson told the invited crowd last night that, no matter how big a star you were, you had to spend two days a week in artists’ development. “It was mandatory. You went there and learned so many things about being in show businesses.”

Berry Gordy told Powell, “You gave them class.”

Powell refuses to say how old she is, but is known to be well into her 90s. She told the crowd that she “will teach until there’s no breath left in my body.”


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