If I were to make a list of my favorite people, Esther Gordy Edwards would be in the top ten. I loved her and consider it a blessing from the Creator to have been friends with her for over 30 years.
I will never forget the long conversations in her office at the Motown Museum, located in the same historic building at 2648 W. Grand Blvd. that housed Hitsville U.S.A. and studio A, where all of those classic songs were recorded. How they got such a big sound from such a small studio is one of the music industry’s greatest mysteries.
And let me tell you something: Mrs. Edwards could talk. I mean really talk! Sometimes for hours, especially if the subject was Motown related. She was a wellspring of knowledge and was always eager to share.
When a celebrity visited the museum, there was always a good chance that Mrs. Edwards would conduct the tour herself rather than one of the volunteer or paid tour guides.
Mrs. Edwards shared so many amusing anecdotes with me. For example, even though she was an essential part of the Motown operation, she was not really musically inclined. She said Berry would tease her, saying, “If Esther likes the song, then we won’t release it!”
She did have favorite Motown songs, however. One of them was Marvin Gaye’s “Try It Baby,” in which the singer informed a woman that if you took away the money, fancy clothes, expensive cars, etc., she would see that no one loved her but him.
In the comedy world, she was a big fan of Sinbad. And I remember that she loved Coca-Cola and chicken.
One day about eight years ago particularly stands out for me. It was the Fourth of July and Mrs. Edwards and I were chatting on the phone. She mentioned that she wanted to pick up a few things at a supermarket. I was free, so I volunteered.
Trouble is, it was early evening and a holiday, so we were unable to find a supermarket that was open. We did a lot of riding around, including through Southwest Detroit where she had, surprisingly, never been even though she had lived in Detroit nearly all of her life.
So we ended up returning to her downtown apartment, sitting on the balcony with a breathtaking view of the Detroit River and Canada. By this time Mrs. Edwards was no longer driving and I felt that on this particular day she just wanted to get out of the house.
Something else occurred to me as well — that if something bad had happened like, for exmple, a car accident, I would have had the entire Gordy family mad at me and asking plenty of questions, whether it had been my fault or not. But she enjoyed herself and so did I.
One time there was a message on my answering machine from her. It said, “Esther Edwards here. I hadn’t seen you in a while. Just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you. Hope you’re doing okay and hope to see you soon.”
I am so glad I saved that message.