There are a lot, a lot, of books out there about Motown records, Berry Gordy and the many wonderful artists that were signed to the label in its Detroit heyday, which makes it all the more impressive that there aren’t any books like Suzanne Smith’s Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit.
The book opens in July ‘67 with Martha Reeves & the Vandellas performing at Detroit’s Fox Theater and being informed about the riots during the song that gave this book its name. We’re told that Reeves advised her loyal fans to get home safely, and then she and her crew left town.
That’s a smart way to start the book, because it immediately places one of Motown’s most well-known songs into context with what was going on around it politically and socially. We hear about the impact Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party had on the mindset of Motown musicians, particularly Marvin Gaye who pushed Gordy to allow him to release a “message” record, What’s Going On?.
The book isn’t always an easy read, but it’s really not supposed to be. Still, Smith’s research is exhaustive and the subject matter is fascinating. Her most impressive feat is successfully making the reader hear songs heard a million times with a whole new set of ears.Follow @City_Slang
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.