As the largest city in the state of Michigan, Detroit is chock full of things to do for those who love a bit of culture. It may surprise you, but The Motor City is a hotbed of musical talent, as a number of well-known and up and coming musicians have called this city home. Here, we’ve picked our favorite Detroit musicians according to genre and provided examples of some of their standout songs for your listening pleasure.
Jazz: Alice Coltrane
If the name sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. Born Alice McLeod, this jazz pianist, organist, harpist and composer married the famous jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane while performing with Terry Gibbs’s quartet. In addition to being an incredibly accomplished musician, Coltrane was also an activist, contributing to the Red Hot Organization’s complication album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, which raised awareness of the AIDS epidemic amongst African-Americans and was named Album of the Year by Time Magazine.
Listen: “The Sun,” “Stellar Regions” and “Blue Nile”
Gospel: The Winans family
While some of the most famous gospel singers have come from Detroit, such as Della Reese and the Reverend CL Franklin (whose daughter was none other than Grammy award winner Aretha Franklin) none are more renowned than the Winans family, which produced notable Grammy winners Cece and BeBe Winans.
Listen: “Up Where We Belong,” “Meantime” and “Grace”
In the 1980s, one of the most famous pop stars of all time emerged on the Detroit music scene. Born Madonna Louise Ciccone, the world would soon know her as simply Madonna. Since her humble roots playing to modest crowds at clubs around Detroit as a member of the rock band Breakfast Club, she has since grown to be recognized as the world’s top-selling female recording artist of all time by Guinness World Records.
Listen: “Like a Prayer,” “Music” and “4 Minutes”
Rock: The White Stripes
Part of the reason for The White Stripes’ success was due to the fact that the band’s origins and the personal lives of its members were constantly under speculation. First billed as a brother and sister duo, it was later revealed that Jack and Meg White were previously married to each other. But beyond the band’s quirky red and white design aesthetic and publicity stunts, The White Stripes introduced a sound to the Detroit music scene that was distinctly unique, characterized by a mix of garage rock and blues influences with lo-fidelity recording and production.
Listen: “Fell in Love with a Girl,” “Blue Orchid” and “Icky Thump”
Rhythm &Blues: Parliament-Funkadelic
An overview of R&B wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the success of the seminal Detroit-based Motown Records in the 1960s and 1970s, which featured some of the most popular R&B artists in the world, including Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Four Tops and more. Another important R&B group, known colloquially as P-Funk, was formed by George Clinton in 1967. Despite many lineup and name changes (the band went from being known as The Parliaments, to Funkadelic, to Parliament), P-Funk remains one of the most popular R&B groups in the world.
Listen: “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker),” “Do That Stuff” and “Chocolate City”
Marshall Bruce Mathers III, better known as Eminem and by his alter ego Slim Shady, is one of the most well-known Detroit rappers, record producers and songwriters and was named on Rolling Stone’s list of The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In addition to his music career, Eminem ventured into the film realm, making his Hollywood debut acting in the semi-autobiographical movie “8 Mile”as well as lending his voice to several animated films.
Listen: “The Real Slim Shady,” “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” and “Lose Yourself”
Often cited as the birthplace of techno music, this city has featured a thriving electronic scene for years. In fact, it is Detroit-born musician Juan Atkins that has been credited as the originator of this genre, named as one of “12 Who Count” in the history of keyboard music by American music technology publication Keyboard Magazine in 1995. These days, house fans get their kicks when Moodymann, also known as Kenny Dixon Jr., gets on the decks. This notable disc jockey has created a unique hybrid of electronic music, blending jazz, soul, disco and funk into something seamless. You can find Moodymann spinning at local music venues or music festivals worldwide.
Listen: “Music Is…,” “Don’t You Want My Life” and “I’d Rather Be Lonely”
Photo credit: iStockphoto/risamay