The anniversary, being marked Monday, is producing mixed emotions in a city where the disintegration of the automobile industry has produced a sense of gloom, as well as lingering bitterness of the 1972 decision by Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. to move the label to Los Angeles, the BBC reported.
"I really do believe that if Motown had stayed in Detroit, the fortunes of the city would have been better," local music journalist Gary Graff told the British broadcaster. "People still feel betrayed all these years later."
Motown's place in music history is indisputable, with its introduction and development of such soul, rhythm and blues, and pop artists as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Ritchie, the Commodores and a seemingly endless roster of African-American superstars.
The artists had a sense of camaraderie and were friends outside the studio, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, the last surviving original member of the Four Tops, told the BBC.
"It was a life of joy," Fakir said.