They called her the ‘mother of Motown.’ Indeed, Berry Gordy’s older sister, Esther – who died aged 91 on Wednesday 24th of August – played a crucial role in not only the birth of the legendary Detroit record company (she was instrumental in her brother getting the $800 he needed from his family to start Motown in 1959) but also in various capacities throughout the company’s evolution. A university graduate with an astute business mind she toiled behind the scenes at Hitsville as a corporate secretary, managed some of the label’s artists, became Director Of International Relations and eventually ended up as senior vice president.

She died after a protracted illness in her Detroit home.


What follows is a statement issued by Berry Gordy in tribute to his late sister:


Today our family mourns the loss of our beloved Esther Gordy Edwards.

Esther Gordy Edwards was a top Motown executive, businesswoman, civil and political leader, who received numerous awards, commendations and accolades. She was the most educated in our family and was the go-to person for wisdom in business.

Whatever she did, it was with the highest standards, professionalism and an attention to detail that was legendary. She always came out a hero. Esther wasn’t concerned with being popular. She was dedicated to making us all better-the Gordy family and the Motown family.

Esther turned the so-called trash left behind after I sold the company in 1988 into a phenomenal world-class monument where Hitsville started The Motown Museum.

She preserved Motown memorabilia before it was memorabilia, collecting our history long before we knew we were making it. She nurtured and held it together through the years, protecting the Motown legacy for generations to come-which is only one of the reasons people all over the world will remember and celebrate Esther Gordy Edwards.

Despite my sorrow, I will proudly continue to honor and celebrate her. She will always be my big sister and she will forever live in my heart.