Maxine Powell, who is known for smoothing out the rough edges of Motown’s diamonds in the rough and turning them into polished jewels, died this morning at Providence Hospital in Southfield. She was 98.
Born in Texarkana, Texas, and raised in my hometown of Chicago, Powell was one of the founding members of Motown’s Artist Development department.
In a statement released Monday, 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.”
In August, although Powell was weak and dependent on others to get around, she still had a few funny stories for reporters. She recalled how Marvin Gaye once told her that he “didn’t need charm school.”
“It’s a finishing school,” Powell said, correcting him. “Well, I don’t need finishing,” Gaye told her.
“You don’t need as much as some, but you close your eyes when you’re singing, and people think you’re asleep,” said Powell. “And, you slouch. So we’ll work on those two things.”
It is quite obvious that Maxine Powell was highly instrumental in Motown’s success and she will be thoroughly missed.
The funeral arrangements for Powell have been set. Visitation is 2-9 p.m. Thursday at the Swanson Funeral Home, 14751 McNichols, Detroit. On Friday the family hour is at 10 a.m. and funeral service at 11 a.m. at the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, 18700 James Couzens, Detroit.
Check out the this old interview with Maxine Powell where she discusses her role with Motown.