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This past week, Motown Records’ longtime publicist and very first employee died at the age of 74.

Al Abrams guided the careers of R&B superstars the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, the Miracles and Marvin Gaye and created the label’s well-known slogan “The Sound of Young America.”

What makes Abrams’ career and life even more amazing and wonderful is that his boss, Berry Gordy, had good — no, great — business and promotional sense to hire Abrams BEFORE the Motown label was officially established.

Gordy knew that if you want success, you need a good communicator, a great storyteller and a smart organizer and manager. And you need that person beside you, working with you BEFORE you ink the first deal, get the first client, roll out the first version of the product. A good PR person is an invaluable and necessary foundational “ingredient” in the mix of people you need when you start a business.

He found that person in Abrams who wanted to promote records and showed Gordy that he could do it.
Abrams’ wife, Nancy, said in Rolling Stone that “His greatest accomplishment at Motown was actually starting at the age of 18. It kind of snowballed. He knew what he wanted to do with his life at that point.”

What a fortunate man! He surely was at the right place at the right time and met the right person. But he also took good advantage of those doors that opened. He walked through them and he brought others — so many well-known R& B performers, musicians and singers — with him.

Abrams started working — in partnership, many agreed in tributes after his death — with Berry and Motown in 1959 and started his own PR firm in 1967. Some of his clients included James Brown, Stax Records, Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Invictus Records. He wrote the retrospective “Hype & Soul: Behind the Scenes at Motown,” and co-wrote the musical “Memories of Motown.”

Ever the PR rep, he wrote his own obituary, his wife told the Detroit Free Press.

Photo: Al Abrams, pencil behind ear, papers in arm. From the website “Hype & Soul” at http://hypeandsoul.blogspot.com/