Music of Michigan

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The music of Michigan is composed of many different types. The city of Detroit has been one of the most musically influential and innovative cities for the past 50 years, whether in Michigan or anywhere else in the United States. Impressively, for 48 straight years (1959 and 2007) a greater Michigan area artist has produced a chart topping recording. Michigan is perhaps best known for three developments: early punk rock, Motown/soul music and techno music.


Classical music and the arts in Michigan have long been supported by the auto industry and the auto magnates who became rich from it. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1914, is the premier orchestra in the state and performs at Orchestra Hall in Detroit. The Symphony runs the Detroit Youth Symphony, the Elaine Lebenbom Competition for female composers and shares its campus with Detroit's performing arts high school. The Sphinx Music Competition for young black and Latino classical musicians is based in the Detroit-Ann Arbor area. Interlochen Center for the Arts is an arts and music boarding school in Northern Michigan and also provides summer camps as does the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. In 2006, Leonard Slatkin and the University of Michigan School of Music Symphony won a Grammy for Songs Of Innocence And Of Experience. Paul Smith who was born in Calumet, Michigan was a composer named a Disney Legend who worked on many Disney films and animations including Snow White, Pinocchio and Bambi. Notable contemporary Michigan classical composers include James Hartway and[1] Augustus O. Hill,.[2] The Detroit Opera House is the site of 4 or 5 fully staged operas yearly as well as a dance series. The opera Margaret Garner (by Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison) was sponsored by and debuted at Detroit. Another work debuted by the Michigan Opera Theatre was Cyrano by the company's director David DiChiera.


Further information: Music of Detroit

Detroit has had a thriving blues scene (see Detroit blues) for some time, including most famously John Lee Hooker.


Further information: Music of Detroit


Detroit's Motown Records dominated soul music for many years. Musicians included Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Martha & the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, The Supremes and The Jackson 5.Led by Berry Gordy, Motown revolutionized soul and made Detroit one of the American centers of musical innovation.

Although many who have never lived in the region incorrectly associate certain music from Michigan as being Detroit-oriented, Motown's productions were, in reality, among the limited number of recorded works actually linked to the city itself. Many Motown recordings originated in the city, and many Motown artists were from the city of Detroit, or migrated to the immediate area.

Fortune Records[edit]

Fortune Records was a pre-Motown, Detroit-based, independent record label that specialized in soul, doo-wop, rockabilly, gospel, blues and rock and roll. It was owned by Jack and Devora Brown, a husband and wife business team who would operate the label with help from their son, Sheldon Brown.

The label's biggest stars included John Lee Hooker, Nolan Strong, Andre Williams and Nathaniel Mayer. The label would release more than 800 vinyl records before stopping original releases in the 1970s.

While Fortune never made it to Motown's height of fame, artists like the late Nolan Strong proved to be influential. In his autobiography, Smokey Robinson named Strong as one of his biggest and earliest influences.

Andre Williams and Nathaniel Mayer both had career resurgences in the 2000s garage rock scene. Bands like Reigning Sound, Goober & the Peas and The Black Keys have all cited Fortune artists as influential.

Electronic Music[edit]

Further information: Detroit techno

Techno was primarily developed in basement studios by "The Belleville Three", a cadre of African-American men, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, and Juan Atkins, who were attending college, at the time, near Detroit, Michigan. Influenced heavily by George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic, Germany's Kraftwerk and the house music coming out of Chicago at the time, they created a new genre of percussive, entirely synthetic electronic dance music.

In the 1990s, a fusion of Miami bass, techno, and hip-hop called ghettotech arose in Detroit. Some notable artists were DJ Assault and DJ Godfather. Since May 2000, Detroit has also been the home of the hugely popular Detroit Electronic Music Festival and related festivals.


Further information: Music of Detroit

1960s pop-rock singer Del Shannon came from Coopersville.

Singer Madonna, born Madonna Ciccone in Bay City, Michigan, later living in the Rochester MI area, rose to be considered the "Queen of Pop" by many. Her long career began in the early 1980s and she continues to top charts today.

1st Dan Schafer RCA single US & Canada promo

The 70s brought us great 'pop' listening rooms in Detroit & the surrounding area. The Olde World Cafe in Bloomfield Hills, The Wagon Wheel in Troy, the Inn Between in Pontiac, Your Moustache in Dearborn, the Peanut Barrel, Huddle-North & Lizard's Underground[3] in Lansing & East Lansing were homes to such acts as Feather Canyon, Paddlefoot, Tom Powers, Dan Schafer,[4] Dalan, Travis & Desserts.


Further information: Music of Detroit

Detroit was a center of the 1960s garage rock scene, with such legendary bands as The Amboy Dukes (featuring guitarist Ted Nugent), The Bob Seger System, ? and the Mysterians, the MC5, and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. In the 1970s, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, and Grand Funk Railroad (from Flint, Michigan) were popular rock stars.

The Hideout teen clubs in the Detroit suburbs in the mid-1960s were a hotbed for such influential groups as the Fugitives, The Pleasure Seekers/Cradle, and the Underdogs.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, punk rock pioneers like the MC5 and The Stooges (with lead singer Iggy Pop, born in Muskegon, MI) came from southeastern Michigan. These performers had incendiary lyrics and outrageous, highly physical live shows. ? and the Mysterians, who had a Billboard #1 hit in 1966 with "96 Tears," are widely credited as influencing many later garage-punk bands; the Mysterians' sound melded Tex-Mex influences and James Brown-style soul.

The "new wave" original rock scene of the late 1970s included vinyl record releases by the film-influenced Cinecyde, whose label Tremor Records released singles, EPs, and LPs by the group and many other local, like-minded artists. The Ann Arbor-based group Destroy All Monsters began as an art-oriented experimental group but soon evolved into a hard rock band with a psychedelic edge, prominently due to the presence of Ron Asheton (The Stooges) and Michael Davis (MC5). Vocalist Niagara, a founding group member, would also gain notoriety for her film noir-influenced graphic pop art in later years.

In the 1990s, East Lansing band The Verve Pipe rose to brief stardom with the hit "Freshmen," and Sponge had moderate national success with a dual-guitar sound reminiscent of the MC5. Romeo, MI native Kid Rock gained national prominence in 1999 with his album "Devil Without A Cause," which melded his background as a rapper with other influences from Detroit-based musicians and genres (e.g., Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, and Motown).

The first decade of the 21st century has seen a further revival of the Detroit garage rock sound, typified by bands such as The White Stripes, The Von Bondies, and The Detroit Cobras.

Notable post-hardcore bands include Drawing Mountains of Sterling Heights, Chiodos of Davison, I See Stars of Warren Michigan, La Dispute (band) of Grand Rapids, We Came as Romans of Troy, and Gone By Sunset of Shelby Twp.[citation needed]

Notable alternative/indie rock bands include Alco of Lansing, Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr of Detroit, Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers of East Lansing, and The Soil and the Sun of Grand Rapids.


Further information: Music of Detroit and Detroit hardcore

In the 70s, Detroit had a small new wave scene that included The Romantics and Sonic's Rendezvous Band, who played at a converted supper club called Bookie's. The hardcore punk scene had arrived by 1981, and included Detroit bands Negative Approach and Degenerates,[5] as well as Necros (Maumee, Ohio), Violent Apathy[6] & Spite (Kalamazoo, Michigan)[7] and Meatmen and Crucifucks (Lansing, Michigan). Tesco Vee, of the Meatmen, launched the first Midwest hardcore record label, Touch & Go[1]. Tesco also helped form an alliance between the Detroit scene and Minor Threat and other Washington, D.C. bands (see Music of Washington, D.C.).[8][9]

Hip hop[edit]

Awesome Dre and the Hard Core Committee along with Prince Vince and the Hip Hop Force were among the first wave of Detroit artists. AWOL (not to be confused with AWOL one); Smiley, a female soloist; Kaos & Mystro, The DBGz, Esham, B Def, Prince Vince, D the Great, Goon Squad, Playskule, Bombshell, and Boss followed. Undoubtedly, Michigan's most famous hip hop star is Eminem. Also from Detroit is his group D12; an artist once under his label, Obie Trice; and another former associate, Royce Da 5'9". Other performers include Phat Kat, ICP, One Be Lo, MaGestik LeGend, The Definition, the late J Dilla and his former group Slum Village, and producer and artist Black Milk.[citation needed] Big Sean is another famous rapper from Detroit. Neighboring Flint, Michigan made significant contributions to hip hop throughout the 1990s with artists like MC Breed, Top Authority and The Dayton Family.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  • Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Los Angeles, CA: Feral House. ISBN 0-922915-71-7.