We Heard It Through The Grapevine that today (28 November) is the 89th birthday of Motown and musical legend, Berry Gordy!
The rags-to-riches story of Gordy, who rose from assembly line worker to music-making titan, launching the careers of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and more, is told through in the incredible Motown The Musical, currently playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
So to celebrate Gordy’s remarkable legacy, we caught up with the star portraying him every night, Jay Perry, and pitted him against our Playlists Challenge. You can enjoy Jay’s range of musical inspirations – Motown and beyond – below. Simply…
- Plug in your headphones.
- Scroll down the page below…
- … and click the play button for each song to get a sense of the song!
… are you listening to a lot at the moment?
I’ve just downloaded the Little Mix album, so I’m listening to that loads at the moment! I like a song called Wasabi, so that’s on my playlist a lot at the moment. I went to their album launch last week, and they played it then at the club as well, and it’s just stuck in my head! I got to meet the girls and they’re all so nice.
… did you first perform in public?
When I was younger I was obsessed with Men In Black – and the Will Smith – Men In Black theme tune! I used to perform that to anyone who would watch. I had a video tape I used to watch – a behind-the-scenes of the [music] video – and I would perform it as much as possible, so that’s got to be my first public performance!
… helps you best get into character?
My Girl by The Temptations. I love that song, it’s my favourite one in the show. It encompasses a lot of how Berry [Gordy] feels throughout the show, his relationship with Diana [Ross]… it’s just such a feel-good tune. Everyone loves that song.
… do you most look forward to performing each night?
I get to sing a little bit of My Girl, but I would go with To Be Loved. It’s a Jackie Wilson song that I sing that right at the beginning of the show, and it’s one of the first songs that Berry Gordy ever wrote. It’s just beautiful – it’s literally just a piano and me singing it.
… is your guilty pleasure?
I feel like I have a lot of guilty pleasure songs! With all the hype of the Spice Girls‘ reunion, I’ve been really getting back into their tracks, so I’m gonna say 2 Become 1. Especially at Christmas time, it’s a real Christmassy song. I feel like I do a good rendition of it in karaoke, as well – different octaves and all sorts!
… reminds you of auditions?
Haha, okay, so this is a running joke between me and my friends: You Raise Me Up! For a very long time that was my go-to audition song. And it’s literally just followed me for as long as I’ve been doing this. So whenever I’ve got an audition, one of my best friends says “Did you do You Raise Me Up again?” It could be for Hamilton, and she’d ask “Did you sing You Raise Me Up?”
… would your character want played at their wedding?
Something that he wrote, so I’ll go with To Be Loved again, because it’s all about love, all about the idea of having someone care for you for all your life, and so forth. I feel like that would be his go-to tune.
… makes you the happiest?
Superstition – Stevie Wonder. Every time I put it on… you know when you just feel those first few chords, it just gets you going. It’s one of those songs you can dance to, you can put it on when you’re getting ready to go out, it’s just an instant mood changer.
… is most likely to make you cry?
Anything Luther Vandross I would say. A House Is Not A Home is one of my favourite songs of all-time. And there’s a live version that he sings that literally makes me tear up every single time. I watch it on YouTube: him singing it live at this awards show, and you’ve got people like Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick and huge, huge stars watching him. Imagine being that guy that’s making all these legends and superstars well up! He’s so incredible.
… is your favourite Motown song of all-time?
There’s so many good Motown songs! That is one of the hardest questions ever! I’m gonna go with Marvin Gaye – I Heard It Through The Grapevine. It’s just because, universally, it’s one of those songs that, when you hear its opening, you instantly know what it is, and you’re instantly transported to the time when you first heard the song. It’s a nostalgic kind of hit. It’s just a tune, and Marvin Gaye’s the man!