Have you wondered where the name ‘Motown’ came from? It came from Berry Gordy, Jr., combining the words motor and town. He founded the Motown Record Company in Detroit, Michigan in the early sixties which published chart-topping hits of then up-and-coming artists such as Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson. ‘The Motown Sound’ the soulfulness of R&B music with a pop influence. Motown Record Company later moved to Los Angeles, CA but Motown is still synonymous with Detroit.
Not only is Detroit the birth place of Motown, it is the subject of several rock songs including Detroit Rock City by KISS and Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey. The list of celebrities that claim Detroit as their home town is rather lengthy and includes Bob Seger, Tim Allen, Madonna, Ted Nugent, Eminem, and Kid Rock. Detroit is also home to several professional sports teams – Detroit Lions (football), Detroit Tigers (baseball), Detroit Pistons (basketball), and Detroit Red Wings (Hockey).
When discussing Detroit, no discussion would be complete without the mention of Henry Ford and the monumental influence he had and still has on the city. Henry Ford did not invent the automobile but he was the first to manufacture an automobile that was affordable to the middle class. He was also the father of mass production – creating assembly lines to reduce the costs to the consumer. Henry is also credited with the ‘franchise’ concept setting up dealerships across the country. Ford Motor Company is still the largest employer- whether directly or indirectly – in Detroit.
Although I only lived an hour away from Detroit, I never spent a lot of time exploring the diverse culture Detroit has to offer. I was an extremely shy country girl who was afraid of the big, bad city. And maybe rightfully so. A couple of friends and I were on our way home from what was then called Pine Knob after a Meatloaf concert. We were all busy reliving the concert as we drove through Detroit on I-75. There was major construction on the expressway and before we realized, we were exiting I-75 towards downtown Detroit. It was about midnight on a Saturday night. We did not have a clue as to where we were or how to get back on the expressway. We travelled a couple of blocks and realized there were cops on every corner. Every corner.
Who would know how to get us back on the expressway better than a cop? Our driver rolled down his window and rather loudly said “Excuse me.”
We immediately had the eyes of every cop around on us with their hands on their guns. We got our directions back to the expressway and realized that the cops were almost as afraid of us as we were of being in downtown Detroit at midnight on a Saturday night. With locked doors, we found the expressway and the safety of our small country town once again.
Detroit has come a long way since that night 20-something years ago. For the past three years, I have made an annual trip to Greektown Casino in downtown Detroit. There are no longer cops on every corner and downtown is a cleaner and safer place. As a side note, across the street from Greektown is the most amazing bakery – The Astoria Pastry Shop. They serve the most delicious pastries I have ever tasted.
The music of Motown can be found by visiting The Amazon.com store.