Detroit Rock City: A Look at the History of Rock
DETROIT ROCK CITY. IT'S GRITTY, IT'S REAL, IT'S LOUD AND IT'S AN INTEGRAL PART OF AMERICA'S MUSIC SCENE.
From Motown’s roots to the punk explosion of the 70’s straight on through to today, Detroit has produced a number of artists that rock n’ roll just wouldn’t be the same without. Documented in the 2013 release of Steve Miller’s “Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock n’ Roll in America’s Loudest City”, there is no doubt that this city produced a number of notable artists that changed the face of rock music.
Probably the first event that would establish Detroit as a rock n’ roll town would be the establishment of Motown Records. Opened in Detroit, the label’s name, which was a portmanteau of the words motor and town, would become a nickname for the city as well. The label was owned by Berry Gordy and founded in an attempt to ensure that African American artists would receive the money they deserved for the music they wrote. The label released soul music with a distinct pop influence and achieved an extraordinary amount of crossover success.
The success of Motown would pave the way for many musicians leading to the British invasion and the birth of rock n’ roll music. One of the first artists to hale from Detroit bringing this new sound, was Ted Nugent. Initially gaining fame with his band the Amboy Jukes, which formed in 1963, Nugent presented a unique rock n’ roll voice and hard rock sound. Nugent proudly bears the label the ‘Motor City Madman’.
Other artists would soon follow in Nugent’s footsteps. Formed in 1964, the MC5 became synonymous with the Detroit sound, presenting a type of music that included elements or rock n’ roll, garage rock, blues and psychedelic rock. The band represented a counterculture movement that was considered ‘volatile and threatening” at the time.
Iggy Pop and the Stooges soon followed suit. Formed in 1967, the band played a raw primitive style of rock music combining elements of punk, rock n’ roll and blues. Iggy Pop would later have considerable success as a solo artist performing controversial acts onstage including nudity and self mutilation.
A number of bands would continue to rise out of the Detroit streets, but perhaps the most notable of this newer batch would be The White Stripes. Forming in 1997, the group, which consisted of Jack and Meg White, presented a stripped down approach to music and a simplified sound that mixed elements of garage rock and blues. Though the band released only three albums, they paved the way for many musicians who came after them. Jack White has since founded Third Man Records in Midtown and releases vinyl out of his own printing press.
Today, many look at Detroit as a post-apocalyptic city that has been through its share of financial difficulties (this we know). All that remains of the once great Motown records is its historical museum and many of the stars whose roots were planted on the city’s streets, have now moved on to other cities. But perhaps it is this spirit that makes our city so bad ass and contributes to its dedication to keep rock alive.
In the true spirit of Detroit rock n’ roll, venues like The Magic Stick offer an industrial space in the Majestic Theater Center where bands can get down and dirty. With an exciting array of local and national touring bands passing through, many consider this venue the epicenter of Detroit rock.
Other clubs like St. Andrew’s Hall and The Fillmore are two other venues rich in Detroit rock history featuring vintage posters from performances that took place in its hallowed halls over the years and happen to be two of our favorite spots to catch a show.
But it is not only genres of rock that are prominent on the Detroit music scene. There are also numerous venues that feature jazz, blues, and techno (Detroit techno history is for another day and does NOT disappoint).
Music is integral to Detroit culture and lives through our historic venues, our streets, and people. It is the birthplace of so many successful bands and musicians and plays a prominent role in the history of music. It cultivated the spirit of rock and roll that lives on today.
Catch live music in Detroit at some of our favorite venues:
Candice Simons, j'adore Detroit