Skip to main content

Maxine Powell, mentor to Motown stars, dies at 98

By Kevin Wang, CNN
updated 9:01 AM EDT, Tue October 15, 2013
Motown mentor Maxine Powell played an influential role in nurturing its future stars including The Supremes.
Motown mentor Maxine Powell played an influential role in nurturing its future stars including The Supremes.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Smokey Robinson: "Evidence of her will live on through all of the Motown family"
  • Maxine Powell was one of Motown's first personal development coaches
  • Young Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye were among her stable of stars
  • Motown: "She brought something to Motown that no other record company had"

(CNN) -- Maxine Powell, the mentor behind the smooth success and individual charm of Motown Records' stars for almost five decades, died Monday, the Detroit Free Press reported. She was 98.

Powell, who started as a personal development coach with Motown in 1964, was known for teaching Motown artists how to walk, talk and even think with class. She played an influential role in nurturing its future stars including Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye by giving them lessons in media relations and proper manners.

Mary Wilson, an original member of Motown's Supremes, quoted Powell as saying, "One day, you may be performing before kings and queens."

"And we actually did," Wilson said in a 2002 interview with CNN. "But it was because they taught us how to sit, you know, to talk, and all of these kinds of things."

Click through to see people who passed away in 2013. Click through to see people who passed away in 2013.
People we lost in 2013
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: People we lost in 2013 Photos: People we lost in 2013

In a statement Monday, Motown founder Berry Gordy said Powell was tough, but "poised, professional, and very thankful" as she worked with artists.

Gordy's statement quoted Powell as telling the young artists: "I love you all, 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."

"She brought something to Motown that no other record company had. She was a star in her own right -- an original," Gordy's statement added.

Singer-songwriter and producer Smokey Robinson also paid tribute to Maxine Powell's contribution.

"She led and lived a long wonderful life. I just saw her a couple of weeks ago and she was very mentally sharp. She was an essential part of Motown," he said in a statement.

"We all loved her and she will be truly missed, but the evidence of her will live on and on through all of the Motown family."

Powell was one of Detroit-based Motown's first personal development coaches along with Maurice King and Cholly Atkins, according to the company's website.

People we've lost in 2013

CNN's Denise Quan contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:30 PM EST, Sun January 5, 2014
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
updated 7:55 PM EST, Wed January 1, 2014
Actor James Avery, who played the beloved Uncle Phil on the hit 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died. He was 67.
updated 2:59 PM EST, Wed January 1, 2014
Dr. John W.V. Cordice, the surgeon who operated on Dr. Martin Luther King after he was stabbed in Harlem in 1958, died in Iowa. Cordice was 95.
updated 8:28 PM EST, Wed January 1, 2014
Joseph Ruskin died of natural causes in a Santa Monica, California, hospital. He was 89.
updated 4:19 PM EST, Wed January 1, 2014
Jeffrey Ian Pollack, who directed the popular 1990s films "Booty Call" and "Above the Rim" and produced "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has died. He was 54.
updated 6:00 PM EST, Mon December 23, 2013
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian gun designer whose AK-47 rifle became the weapon of choice for many national armies and guerrillas around the world, died.
updated 6:53 AM EST, Sun December 22, 2013
Ned Vizzini, who shot to fame at a young age for his teenage novels focusing on youth depression and anxieties, committed suicide at age 32.
updated 4:37 PM EST, Thu December 19, 2013
Al Goldstein, the foul-mouthed publisher of Screw magazine and pornography pioneer died in New York. He was 77.
updated 3:53 PM EST, Tue December 31, 2013
Actor Daniel Escobar, who played a teacher in "Lizzie McGuire," died from complications of diabetes in Los Angeles. He was 49.
updated 7:41 PM EST, Wed December 18, 2013
"Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs -- one of the most notorious British criminals of the 20th century -- has died, his publisher told CNN. He was 84.
updated 8:17 PM EST, Mon December 16, 2013
Ray Price, the Nashville star whose trademark "shuffle" beat became a country music staple, has died at age 87, his agent said.
updated 9:23 PM EST, Mon December 16, 2013
Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine died, her longtime friend Noel Beutel said. She was 96.
updated 7:40 AM EST, Mon December 16, 2013
Actor Peter O'Toole died peacefully in a hospital at 81 years old.
updated 7:38 AM EST, Mon December 16, 2013
Tom Laughlin, the actor who wrote and starred in the "Billy Jack" films of the 1970s, died at age 82.
updated 7:56 PM EST, Wed December 11, 2013
Jazz guitarist Jim Hall, who played with the jazz greats of the 20th century and influenced the younger ones, has died, his family said. He was 83.
updated 8:46 AM EST, Tue December 10, 2013
Actress Eleanor Parker, nominated for three Oscars and known for her "Sound of Music" role, died Monday at 91, her family said.
updated 11:40 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
Freedom fighter, statesman, moral compass and South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression.
updated 9:18 PM EST, Wed December 4, 2013
Bill Beckwith, who co-hosted HGTV home-improvement show "Curb Appeal," has died. He was 38.
updated 9:58 AM EST, Mon December 2, 2013
Actor Paul Walker, who shot to fame as star of the high-octane street racing franchise "Fast & Furious," died in a car crash in Southern California. He was 40.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Sat November 30, 2013
Paul F. Crouch, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, died at age 79.
updated 6:42 PM EST, Fri November 29, 2013
Jane Kean, who played diverse roles during a long career but was best known as Trixie on the TV revival of "The Honeymooners," has died. She was 90.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Mon November 25, 2013
Singer Wayne Mills, whose "outlaw country" songs center on honky-tonk life, died in a Nashville bar shooting.
ADVERTISEMENT