Detroit music is the blood and the life
Detroit music is the blood and the life

Detroit music

Something I wrote seven years ago on an earlier blog, The ‘D’ Spot. One of my better pieces of writing about one of my favorite  two subjects: Detroit and Detroit music.

Music is the blood, and the blood is the life.

The lifeblood of Detroit has always been the music. Detroit is music is Detroit is sound is Detroit is music is rock like Iggy Pop and blues like John Lee Hooker is Detroit is Marcus Belgrave and Sir Roland Hanna is Detroit is so many jazz sounds is Detroit is like funk like Funkadelic like George Clinton is Detroit is Aretha gospel is the Wynans  is Detroit soul is Aretha too is Smoky is all the sounds of Stevie Wonder sounds like Detroit is House and Techno is Detroit is punk is Detroit is garage is…


Once upon a time Detroit was a machine that built the machines that were housed by the factories that gave birth to the jobs that breathed collective life into the many blue collar lives that built a blue collar city that once upon a time was the engine of the world. Detroit was a land of refugees and immigrants, all of whom were believers in the healing power of muscle, hustle and sweat. It was this collective belief and devotion to the rewards of hard work as being the pathway to workingman’s paradise that attracted so many thousands upon thousands to fill the shop floors and the assembly lines and the foundries.

The dream was of paradise. The reality was hour stacked upon grueling hour locked  inside factory ovens, oftentimes in working conditions designed to break the strongest of men and women down to dust. Only Detroiters have never been very good at being broken down. What Detroiters were  good at was fighting back and raising hell when and wherever hell needed to be raised. Soon enough the curtains were pulled back on the elusive fragrance thought to be Paradise to expose the reality of man-eating gears growling and belching behind the screen.

And that is when one could begin to hear the infant sounds of Detroit music being born. It was that bruising, throbbing backbeat riding a rhythm that pulsed through obstacles like a freight train through smoke while a six-string scream danced like a maniac back and forth across the top of the careening madness as if it were the last dance on earth. But it was also the whisper imagined in the joy of a baby’s first breath.

When you hear the Detroit sound, you hear the sound of the labor movement, of the 1967 rebellion, of the search for a better life that was sometimes found and cherished like a flower rooted in concrete, and other times trampled and mashed like so much torn flesh caught inside the gears and guts of a malfunctioning factory machine. You hear what happens when dreams and realities are forced to confront one another in tight, confined spaces where there is mind-warping heat and no air. What can you do but throw back your head and scream…and sing…?

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About the author
Writer and musician.


Elayne Sikelianos

2014-11-09 05:33:51 Reply

though i met Keith Owens years ago, i really didn’t know the dedication, integrity and depth of his commitment to Detroit music ~ i’d seen him play with other Blues musicians and liked his style on stage ~ he paid attention & didn’t hog the spotlight ~~ now to hear his great respect for the history of Detroit music, with a wealth of knowledge and background, makes me HAPPY! Thanks for the news and uplift, Keith Owens!

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