Famed Motown Mentor Maxine Powell Dies at Age 98
The Detroit News reports that Maxine Powell, the mentor behind the success of some of Motown Records' biggests stars for almost five decades, died Monday, October 14th at age 98.
Born Maxine Blair in Texarkana, Texas, she graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1933, attended Madame C.J. Walker's School of Beauty Culture, and worked as a manicurist to finance her acting studies; she also studied elocutionand dance. In the early 1940s she worked as a model and as a personal maid, and developed a one-woman show, An Evening with Maxine Powell, which she performed with a group at the Chicago Theatre.
In 1964, she became a consultant to Motown's talent. When the company expanded into new offices, specifically Hitsville U.S.A., she was hired into the Artist Personal Development department in 1966 to teach artists such as Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 and The Supremes, whose Mary Wilson statEd Powell taught them more than stage presence, but "tools for us as human beings". In Powell's words, she turned them into performers "fit for kings and queens."
In a statement released Monday, Motown's Berry Gordy paid tribute to a woman who was "unique in every way."
"She brought something to Motown that no other record company had," he said. "She was a star in her own right - an original. She will always be remembered for her style and class, and she instilled that into the Motown artists by teaching them how to walk, talk and even think with class.
"She was tough, but when she got through with them, they were poised, professional ... and very thankful.
" 'I love you all,' she'd say, 'but don't confuse me with your mother. She's stuck with you, I'm not! Ladies, remember your gloves, walk with class like you were taught - and always remember, do not protrude the buttocks. One day you will perform for the kings and queens of Europe, but for now we must make the best of it on the circuit of the chit-ter-ling.'
"She was not only smart, but very funny," said Gordy. "Maxine Powell will always be a great part of the Motown family and legacy. We miss her and will always love her."
More On: Chicago, Smokey Robinson, The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Mary Wilson, Ed Powell, Berry Gordy.