Instruments: Choreographer
Date of Birth: September 30, 1913
Place of Birth: Pratt City, Alabama
Date of Death: April 19, 2003

Atkins was a star long before Berry Gordy brought him to Detroit in 1964 to add a Broadway polish to his stable of talented but rough-hewn Motown performers.

He had been a legend on the vaudeville circuit, where he was half of a fabled tap-dance duo with Charles (Honi) Coles. And in 1989, he shared a Tony award for choreography for Broadway's "Black and Blue."

But it was during Atkins' years in Detroit, when he helped shape the glory days of Motown Records, that he made his lasting mark on American popular culture. He put the Look in the Motown Look, creating precise choreographic routines -- vocal choreography he called it -- that helped define the music of the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Supremes, the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas and others.

It was a major part of the mainstream refinement that allowed Motown groups to vault the racial barriers that stood in the way of so many black performers before them.

He directed, staged and choreographed acts for countless artists including the Cadillacs, Shirelles, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the O'Jays, Temptations and Aretha Franklin.

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded Mr. Atkins its highest dance award - the three year Choreographer's Fellowship.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

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