Barney Ales, Berry Gordy‘s right-hand man at Motown Records during its heyday and later its president, died on Friday.
The 85-year-old helped break hits by the likes of the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Four Tops.
He left Motown in 1979 and wound up heading several independent labels, Elton’s Rocket Records among them.
The Michigan native, whose real name was ‘Baldassare Ales,’ began his career in the stockroom of Capitol Records‘ local branch and worked his way up the sales and promotion ladder before joining Warner Bros. Records in 1959 as its Detroit branch manager.
He was co-author–with Adam White–of the book Motown: The Sound of Young America, which was published in 2016.
Barney, who is survived by his wife Eileen, four children, 9 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren, once said that although he wrote some songs, that wasn’t his strong point. His job was ”running the machine, selling records,” and ”making sure the business was taken care of.”