Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hitsville, USA

"Jackie Wilson said, it was 'Reet-Petite'." Yes he did, Van. Yes he did. And do you know where Jackie Wilson was from? None other than Detroit, MI, the home of your very own Little Gun. And it is with Jackie Wilson that we will begin our music journey down Woodward Ave. (authors note: this is the site of the Woodward Dream Cruise, an event in which Detroiters and folks from out of state get out their igloo coolers and fold-out chairs and sit on the side of Woodward Ave and watch classic cars drive by for about 5 days straight...it's miserable), past the city limits of 8 mile road (real road; my high school was located on 7 mile road...talk about cred), and into the white and blue house on 2648 West Grand Blvd, where Detroit's Motown scene was birthed.

So why do we begin with Jackie Wilson? Well, mostly because Van Morrison (the third member of my own personal music trinity with Dylan and Springsteen) named a song after him. But Jackie was no slouch in his own right. First of all, his nickname was "Mr. Excitement," a nickname that any of us would kill for if we were really honest with ourselves. He had a couple hits, including "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," "Lonely Teardrops" (which he performed on the Ed Sullivan show in classic fashion, and, the aforementioned "Reet-Petite." The man who co-wrote "Reet-Petite" was a man named Berry Gordon, Jr., which is where we continue our musical journey.

Berry Gordon, Jr. was the creator of Motown Records. Motown Records was headquartered at the aforementioned (I've been saying "aforementioned" a lot) 2648 West Grand Blvd., and was very arrogantly, but appropriately titled "Hitsville, USA." Motown Records was started in 1959. The first group that Gordon signed was a group called "The Matadors," whose name later was changed to "The Miracles," and was led by a young man named Smokey Robinson. From there, the label took off, developing a brand of music so popular that it practically became its own genre, known as the "Motown Sound."

Now, due to the sheer volume of legendary artists that were a part of Motown Records and the "Motown Sound," it seems that I'm too close, and am switching to guns (bullet points).

Marvin Gaye-The top male solo artist of the Motown family, Marvin Gaye is a man who needs know introduction. His early days in Motown featured hits such as "Heard it Through the Grapevine," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)." You all know these songs. They have been part of the soundtrack of every family wedding you have ever attended. As well as the soundtrack to all Disney sports movies, any movie starring Diane Keaton, and, of course, The Big Chill. His early motown success spurred him on to later hits such as "What's Going On" "Sexual Healing," and, of course, "Let's Get It On." And I'm just getting warmed up. (Side Notes: Marvin Gaye as the same birthday as your author. Also, Marvin Gaye attempted to join the Detroit Lions in 1970...he was turned down without a tryout...but you can't fault the Detroit pride).

The Temptations
-Formed in Detroit as "The Elgins" (good name change). By 1982, they had sold 22 million albums, marking them as one of the most successful groups of all time. From the harmonies, to the choreography, to the matching suits, The Temptations were a staple of the Motown era. Hits include: "The Way You Do the Things You Do," "Ain't To Proud to Beg," and of course, the song my Aunt Beth, and every other 50-60 year old woman, goes weak in the knees over, "My Girl." (Sidenote: I performed a lyp-synched version of My Girl at my middle school's "Mock Rock" competition that brought the house down, and my popularity up, I think it's safe to say).

Stevie Wonder-Born in Saginaw, Michigan, and blind since infancy, Wonder signed with Motown in his teens and has won 21 grammy awards (record for a solo artist), and has 30 top ten hits. Too many awesome songs to mention. His personal best in my opinion are: "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" and "For Once in My Life." Bonus points for being able to play more instruments Prince...and he plays them better...blind.

Can I stop now? Hasn't Detroit already won? There's just too much firepower.

Diana Ross and The Supremes-Formed in Detroit, one of their biggest hits, was covered by Phil Collins (You Can't Hurry Love). You can't compete with that.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
-Smokey was born in Detroit. Smokey, with the Miracles and by himself had 70 Top 40 hits. The Miracles performed "Tracks of My Tears," and "You've Really Got a Hold On Me." Smokey also wrote a bunch of The Temptations hits. This is just getting ridiculous.

Other Motown favs: Martha Reeves, Aretha, the Four Tops, and The Jackson Five.

After Motown's day in the sun, Detroit was a mecca for the garage band scene, featuring bands such as Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. This scene is not very important to me, but I'm throwing it in there for anyone who cares.

Seger. Seger played at my dad's high school dances. Seger is synonymous with Rock n' Roll. If you're not emotionally moved by "Night Moves," or "Running Against the Wind," you're lying to yourself.

Negative points for Detroit: Uncle Cracker and Kid Rock. I'll give you those.

Eminem. Before leaving the game, it was generally accepted that he was at the top. Admittedly, this was when Jay-Z was out, but still...Eminem's not a bad guy to have for Detroit's case.

I could go on, but I'm tired of writing about Detroit's greatness. I'll leave you with this. Try and think of a joyous family celebration in which you haven't heard Marvin Gaye or Smokey Robinson through the stereo speakers; haven't heard Seger pouring his heart out through song, while you pour your heart out on the dance floor; haven't cooked up a tub of popcorn and watched 8 Mile with the family. Wait, what? You get the point.

(Pictures and music to come. Right now I'm in a coffee shop in McAllen, an hour away from home, and I need to go...for now, the text will speak for itself)

2 comments:

Little Dynamite said...

after that post, i realize how much better minneapolis is than detroit, so i'll throw you a bone...jack white is from the d...you need all the help you can get...

Elias said...

Detroit 2 Me Is Home

The Best Place On Earth