Former Motown President Barney Ales dies at age 85

He was part of the braintrust that took a small Detroit soul music label and turned it into the most important musical force in the world. Today we mourn the passing of former Motown President Barney Ales. He was 85.

A Detroit native, Ales had worked at lower levels of a few record labels in the 1950s when he met Motown founder, Berry Gordy, Jr. Gordy hired the Italian-American Ales to help break down some of the barriers that would likely prevent an African-American owned label from the type of mass acceptance that Gordy desired.

Ales led the sales efforts at Motown – helping to break such artists as Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and The Temptations with the pop music world -- and the business marriage with Gordy was historically successful, as Motown grew to become the most important independent label in the world.

He was part of the braintrust that took a small Detroit soul music label and turned it into the most important musical force in the world. Today we mourn the passing of former Motown President Barney Ales. He was 85.

A Detroit native, Ales had worked at lower levels of a few record labels in the 1950s when he met Motown founder, Berry Gordy, Jr. Gordy hired the Italian-American Ales to help break down some of the barriers that would likely prevent an African-American owned label from the type of mass acceptance that Gordy desired.

Ales led the sales efforts at Motown – helping to break such artists as Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and The Temptations with the pop music world -- and the business marriage with Gordy was historically successful, as Motown grew to become the most important independent label in the world.

Ales balked at relocating to California when Motown left Detroit in 1972, and instead formed his own label, Prodigal Records. But he ultimately rejoined the fold at Motown and ultimately was named President by Gordy. By 1980, Ales left again and led multiple other West Coast labels over the course of the next decade, including Elton John’s Rocket Records.

In lieu of flowers being sent to his home, Mr. Ales’ family is requesting donations be made to the Detroit Sound Conservancy:  http://detroitsound.org

With so many musical deaths during the past month, we hope that Barney Ales’ passing will not be forgotten by soul music lovers. He was a giant who played a key role in bringing the Golden Age of Soul Music to the world. Rest In Peace.

 
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