Paul McCartney helps to restore famous Motown piano

Posted on 2 April 2013
By Pierce King
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Music legend Paul McCartney has helped to restore a piano with a rich history to its former glory so it can return home, to the Motown Historical Museum, in Detroit.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney got on board to fund the restoration of the piano after visiting the museum and finding to his disappointment, that it didn’t play.

McCartney and the Beatles were vocal admirers of Motown, recording cover versions of “Money,” “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” and other classic hits.

The Live And Let Die has long said that his greatest influence, on bass guitar, was Motown bassist James Jamerson.

The nine-foot 1877 Steinway grand piano sat for years in Motown Studio B on Davison was returned to Hitsville this week and reassembled in Studio A by Steinway technicians, after a complete restoration at the company’s factory in New York.

“The timing was actually perfect, because we have our annual Esther Gordy Edwards Community Day on April 25,” said Robin Terry, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Motown Historical Museum chair, and Edwards’ granddaughter.

Esther Gordy Edwards Community Day, is now an annual event honoring the founder of the museum on her birthday.

No admission fee is required on that day. Edwards, Gordy’s sister and a Motown executive, kept Hitsville open after Motown moved to Los Angeles, and founded the museum in the early 1980s.

“I really do encourage Detroiters to come and visit Hitsville again,” said Terry. “She built that museum because she wanted people to be forever mindful of what was built here in Detroit.

“The innovation and ingenuity that went into the sound impacted people all over the world. We are the only city on the planet that can claim ownership of Motown.”

The Steinway has been on display at Motown’s Studio A, the tiny recording studio in the back of the house at 2648 W. Grand Blvd., for some years, but was actually the piano used at Motown Studio B, originally Golden World Records’ studio, run by Ed Wingate and Joanne Bratten.

Motown artists would use Studio B when they wanted to be away from executives’ prying eyes, or if they needed a larger space than Studio A. Marvin Gaye worked on much of “What’s Going On” at Studio B.

Last fall, McCartney was the first to play the newly restored piano with Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. – at a special event at Steinway Hall in New York City.

“To see Paul McCartney and Berry Gordy in New York together, they were like kindred spirits,” said Terry, who was there at the mini-concert.

“They have so much respect and admiration for each other, and the legacies created by the Beatles and by Motown, it’s a mutual admiration society. We feel very fortunate to have a friend in Paul McCartney; it was such a really generous gift.”