Motown alumni to reunite for final Heroes and Legends Awards

The HAL Awards were launched in 1990 by Janie Bradford, songwriter and former secretary for Motown Records.

Living legends from Detriot’s highly influential Motown Records will reunite in Los Angeles on Sunday for the final installment of the Heroes and Legends (HAL) Awards, the label’s informal “family reunion” held annually for the past three decades.

Launched in 1990 by Janie Bradford, songwriter and former secretary for Motown Records, the HAL Awards will meet one last time at the Beverly Hills Hotel with a star-studded guest list of longtime friends and collaborators from one of American music’s most important musical institutions, per the Detroit Free Press.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 25: Janie Bradford attends The Paley Center For Media Hosts A Legendary Evening With Mary Wilson at The Paley Center for Media on February 25, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

Attending the HAL Awards will be Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., 92, who started the company in 1959 with an $800 loan, and built it into a music, film and television giant that supported music icons including Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, and Diana Ross & the Supremes.

Also set to appear at Sunday’s event are Motown royalty including Duke Fakir of the Four Tops, Scherrie Payne of the Supremes, Claudette Robinson of the Miracles, Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas and Brenda Holloway, per the Free Press. 

Bradford told the outlet that as the years have gone on and Motown alumni have passed away — examples including the Supremes’ Mary Wilson, singer Mable John and songwriter-producer Lamont Dozier just to name a few since 2021 — the event has become harder to organize.

Bradford, who was among the first employees Gordy hired in 1959 after launching Motown, told the Free Press that the company “really did become a family from day one” and remains a tight-knit support group to this day.

“That’s still there for us whenever we’re together. Even if we haven’t seen someone in years, it (comes back) like yesterday. We reach out to each other. We need each other. We lend a helping hand,” Bradford said.

The Miracles Honored At The Hollywood Walk Of Fame
HOLLYWOOD – MARCH 20: Motown Records founder Berry Gordy (L) and singers Stevie Wonder attend the ceremony honoring Smokey Robinson (R) and other members of the musical group The Miracles with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 20, 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

Alongside the HAL Awards, Bradford founded the HAL Scholarship Foundation the same year as an avenue for youth interested in performing arts to receive financial support.

“For 30 years, Janie Bradford’s Heroes and Legends Scholarship Foundation has awarded so many deserving young people with scholarships, while giving the Motown Family a place to connect every year,” Gordy said in a statement lauding Bradford’s years of dedication, per the outlet. 

The weekend event kicked off Friday with an evening party, followed up on Saturday morning with a breakfast and book signing. On Saturday evening a “Legends of Soul” concert was held at the Hard Rock Hollywood, and the event will culminate Sunday with the 30th Annual HAL Awards, according to its website.

Honorees will include Doug E. Fresh (Pioneer Award); Sondra (Blinky) Williams (Outstanding Achievement in Music Award); Billie Jean Brown (Pacesetter Award); Toni Basil (Trailblazer Award); Duke Fakir (Triumph Award); Jon Platt (HAL Icon Award) and Sujata Murthy (Cornerstone Award).

theGrio’s Shawn Grant contributed to this report.

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