Rob Moss delivers his view on the recently broadcast BBC4 TV programme Motor Citys Burning - Detroit from Motown to the Stooges
I love Detroit — ‘Motor City’s Burning’
The title sounded fantastic. ‘Motor City’s Burning’ — ‘A documentary looking at how, during the 1960s, the blue collar Midwestern city of Detroit became home to a musical revolution that captured the sound of a nation in upheaval’ and ‘Detroit from Motown to the Stooges’ to quote the BBC’s own promotional blurb. Surely this would be a detailed examination of the circumstances that created one of the most influential musical styles in popular music — ‘The Motown Sound’? The title implied that some scrutiny of the causes and effects of the 1967 Detroit riots would feature in the programme too. And wouldn’t the BBC, an institutional universally respected and admired, with a substantial budget provided by the British taxpayer, be able to gain access to unique footage, interviews and other journalistic extras that would create a truly ground breaking, and long overdue, assessment of an essential era in a unique age?
Adherents to the genre could almost predict the content. A brief history of Detroit, tracing its initial role as a fur trading settlement in the 18th century to the arrival of Henry Ford at the beginning of the 20th century and the creation of the automobile industry, the important role the city played in the escape of slaves from the South during the 19th century, the strained race relations that dogged life in the city throughout most of the 20th century as huge numbers of black families migrated north, and the affluence of the post war period, culminating in the 1960s, that spawned a generation of superbly talented and creative people in and around Detroit. This would be followed by an assessment of the social and cultural landscape around the city in the 1950s, and how this impacted on Berry Gordy Jnr. A brief description of Gordy’s family background, writing career and musical grounding would provide an insight into how he set up his business operation, and, perhaps more importantly, who was involved in the earliest recording sessions and organizational structures he put in place...
note from the soul source team - sorry but all Robs non-current articles are now clipped due to a future book release - watch out for news of that!