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Robert Gordy, Musician, Influential Motown Executive and Brother to Founder Berry Gordy, Dies at 91

Robert Gordy Courtesy Universal Music Enterprises
Music executive Robert Louis Gordy Sr. — the younger brother of Motown founder Berry Gordy ­— has died.

Motown Records' parent company, Universal Music Enterprises, shared the news in a release Sunday. It stated that the 91-year-old, who transformed the label's publishing division into an industry powerhouse, passed away from natural causes Friday (Oct. 21) at his home in Marina del Rey, California.

Berry Gordy (92) confirmed the news, which comes a little over a year after Robert's eldest son, Robert Jr., died of natural causes from a non-specific disease at 67.

“I am deeply saddened by the sudden passing of my younger brother, Robert,” Berry Gordy said in a statement. “He was absolutely the best lil’ brother anyone could ever hope for. His ability to succeed at whatever he attempted or that I threw his way, amazed me over the years. I will miss his love, his support, and his loyalty.”

Robert was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1931. The youngest of eight children, he followed his big brother into boxing and later music.

Using the pseudonym Bob Kayli, he had a minor hit in 1958 with a song he co-wrote with his brother. The single, "Everyone Was There," peaked at No. 96 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and earned the artist a chance to perform it on "The Dick Clark Show."

Robert continued to release music as Kayli, but his follow-ups did not enjoy the same success. By the early sixties, his career as a recording artist was over. His impact on Motown, however, had just begun.

He took over Jobete Music Publishing in 1965 at the age of 34. Over the next twenty years, he turned the division into one of Motown's most valuable assets and, according to the release, moved it from being a holder of song copyrights into a profitable international publishing company with a catalog of over 7,000 classic songs.

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