PLAYING DETROIT PLAYLIST: The City Sings Itself

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I’m finally home. After a two week stint on the road with JR JR I’m attempting to readjust and realign, and in doing so found that I was home sick all along. While traveling I was lucky to explore parts of the country I never thought I would see, and feel things yet to be categorized and safely stored. Even so, the sensation of being home is disturbingly strange. While I stumble to transition from being driven to driving myself (that’s actually pretty heavy if you think about it), I decided to channel Detroit artists singing about our beautifully complicated city. (And for the record, I really wanted to put Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” on this list, but I think you’re better off just looking up “mom’s spaghetti” memes.)

1. The White Stripes “The Big Three Killed My Baby”

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My dad has worked for Ford Motor Company for 39 years. My dad also raised me single handedly. Detroit royalty, The White Stripes’ shrill and thrashing anthem, acknowledging the complexities between the city and its industry, hits home with me. While on the road, my dad called me with the news of his early retirement. I imagine on his last day we will set fire to something in a field and scream along with Jack and Meg.

2. Mayer Hawthorne “A Long Time”

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Released in 2011, just two years before Detroit filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, this track about Detroit’s most desperate hour is bittersweet today in the age of the city’s rebirth. Hawthorne’s reputation for being a sincere channel between the sounds of Motown and modern swagger shines here with heart and hope.

3. MC5 “Motor City Is Burning” 

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I’m not sure how they’re perceived around the country, other than seeing shitty faux vintage t-shirts at Urban Outfitters, but in Detroit MC5 are a major thread in our rock ‘n’ roll fabric. In wake of the race riots of 1967, their 1969 debut album Kick Out The Jams included this track, a Dylan-esque retaliation and retelling of this pinnacle piece of our city’s history.

4. Patti Smith “25th Floor”

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Okay, okay. Patti Smith isn’t from Detroit. But she is my favorite person and she did live in Detroit and various Michigan suburbs from 1976 to the mid 90’s after meeting and marrying the late Fred Smith (beloved guitarist of the aforementioned MC5.) Her latest book, M-Train, details this very life which was first expressed in 1978 via this purging and poetic love letter that is as gritty as the city itself.

5. Sixto Rodriguez “Inner City Blues”

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Rodriguez has an interesting story.  If you saw the Oscar winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man then you know what I’m talking about. Having made music with luke warm reception in the states in the 1970’s (with mild success in Australia) Rodrieguez’s career shaped up to be short lived. Unknowingly to him, his music found its way to South Africa where his record sales outnumbered those of Elvis Presley. Rumors of his death circulated. In attempt to find the truth (spoiler alert: he’s alive) the documentary was made and released in 2012. This song is reflective of his roots and helps illustrate the mysterious life of this local legend with sweeping simplicity.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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