With Motown being revived in the form of a Broadway show, we explore the vibrant music scene of Detroit.
If anywhere has a legendary music scene in North America, it's Detroit, Michigan. With a culture so rich in genre from Motown to rock, it's no wonder people write songs about it - even if no-one's living there anymore.
Berry Gordy foundered Motown in the 50s
Where else to look at musical diversity than Detroit? These days, the city has suffered from a serious economic decline with a rapidly decreased population, sky high crime rates and boarded up buildings everywhere you look. But no matter what happens, it will always be known as the home of Motown records. With it being probably the most recognisable record company in the world (so much so that it has practically become a genre in its own right), the unveiling of Broadway show 'Motown the Musical' comes as little surprise. Featuring Clifton Oliver as founder Berry Gordy and Allison Semmes as Diana Ross, it is currently touring the US with dates stretching until September 2015.
Unless you count the famous Detroit Symphony Orchestra which has been around for over 100 years, Motown was the pioneering soul label where musical history began to form. From its inception 1959, Motown signed some of the biggest artists in the world including Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and The Four Tops. Around the same time, more talent of a similar genre began to pop up in the town, such as 'Respect' hitmaker Aretha Franklin.
Diana Ross was one of Motown's biggest successes
Motown soul was only the beginning of a rich musical culture in Detroit, however. In later years, electronic music would have its own place in the city with artists such as Juan Atkins and Model 500 becoming major influences in local dance music. Electronically speaking, the city had a very specific way of categorising their sound - Detroit techno. This was partially pioneered by the likes of Carl Craig, who counts Kevin Saunderson from Inner City as one of the greatest musicians of the new generation in Detroit techno.
We can't talk about Detroit, however, with mentioning its thriving rock scene. From the 60s roots rock of Bob Seger to the heavier stuff that came with the 70s - Suzi Quatro, Iggy & The Stooges and Alice Cooper - the city has become a rock haven with songs even being written about it such as 'Detroit Rock City' by Kiss and David Bowie's 'Panic in Detroit'. The nineties brought a further rock revival with the likes of The White Stripes and Brendan Benson (the latter being Jack White's co-musician in The Raconteurs) and Kid Rock, who brought his brand of Southern rock almost as North as he could get.
Jack White teamed up with Brendan Benson for The Raconteurs
It's worth noting that, even aside from Motown and rock music, some of the biggest names in musical history also have roots in Detroit. Late R&B star Aaliyah grew up in the city, Eminem discovered rap music while he was living there in his youth and George Clinton's 70s funk group Funkadelic re-located there in their early career.
It might be a bit of a post-apocalyptic No Man's Land in many people's eyes, but there's still a creative force about Detroit. It's clear to see that it's on its way back as more and more budding musicians take to the streets to rediscover great music. Plus, the Detroit run of 'Motown the Musical' will be just the breath of life the city needs.