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Detroit Community Radio - October 30, 2011

A special show today, Detroit and its music. I was joined by a colleague, sociologist and Detroit native Peter Neickarz. We talked about all things Detroit: The Tigers, segregation, the 1967 riots, Motown, Detroitism (morbid fascination with the ruins of a once-great industrial city).


Detail of Diego Rivera's mural of the River Rouge Ford plant.

Why is it that Michiganders and Detroiters are so conscious of their identity as Michiganders and Detroiters? Do people from Indiana feel the same way about Indiana? Do Ohioans feel that way about Ohio? It doesn't seem like it. Peter says that he can take almost any conversation and eventually weave Detroit into it.

Even though George Clinton and Bootsy Collins aren't Detroit natives, all that great Parliament- Funkadelic music was recorded in Detroit. We heard "One Nation Under a Groove." We got down just for the funk of it.

There was no way I could do a show about Detroit music without listening to some Bob Seger. We listened to "U.M.C" recorded live at Cobo Hall. I remember an overcast day in the late seventies, lying down in the back of our Chevy station wagon, pulling the plastic wrap from my new album, "Live Bullet," and thinking about how cool those guys looked. It's a classic, from the quintessential Detroit rock and roller.


Ford Mustang, Bang!

Jr. Walker and the All Stars had us shaking and finger popping. Don't put Detroit down, it's the home of the Motown sound. I'm pretty sure that the bass line was laid down by James Jamerson, perhaps the greatest pop music bassist of all time. His lines bump.



We talked about the riots. The Detroit Police Department was bigoted, economic conditions were not good for African Americans. We heard two tunes around this theme: bluesman John Lee Hooker's "The Motor City is Burning" and Canadian Gordon Lightfoot's "Black Day in July."



Peter talked a bit about Detroit as a border City and the fluidity of the Detroit area and Ontario. I remember going through the tunnel as a college student to drink beer in Windsor!

For me, Detroit's musical heritage is impressive. For one, the Motown sound; two, it's one of the great rock and roll towns. I think it's pretty reasonable to consider Detroit the place where punk rock was born. Without the MC 5 and the Stooges, would those Brits or the New Yorkers been able to do it? We reminisced about reading Creem magazine, which was based in Detroit. It also has a jazz heritage. It was a town renowned for its pianists (Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Sir Roland Hanna). We closed the show with a nice version of Ellington's "Single Petal of a Rose" by Hanna. We also heard Betty Carter sing and James Carter blow his sax. I remember hearing JC play at the Detroit Institute of Arts when he was just a teen. He was a monster even then.

We talked about the Nuge. As ridiculous of a figure as he's become, I still think it would be fun to sit down and talk with him.



We had fun and the time flew by. Maybe we'll make this a tradition: every year do a Detroit show. We just scratched the surface today.

Catamount Community Radio, Sunday mornings, 10-12 (Detroit time) on WWCU.


1. Marvin Gaye – God is Love
2. Marvin Gaye – Mercy, Mercy Me
3. Funkadelic – One Nation Under a Groove
4. Bob Seger – U.M.C.
5. Kiss – Detroit Rock City
6. Jr. Walker & the All Stars – Shake and Fingerpop
7. James Carter – You Never Told Me that You Care
8. John Lee Hooker – The Motor City is Burning
9. Gordon Lightfoot – Black Day in July
10. The Stooges - 1969
11. Smokey Robinson – I Care About Detroit
12. Ted Nugent – Motor City Madhouse
13. Chuck Smith – The Train is Coming
14. Big Maceo – Detroit Jump
15. Sufjan Stevens – Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!
16. The Temptations – Just My Imagination
17. Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)
18. The Detroit Experiment – Vernors
19. Betty Carter – There’s No You
20. Alice Cooper – Under My Wheels
21. Sir Roland Hanna – Single Petal of a Rose



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