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 (1959-2007) 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. Michigan musicians with a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit include artists from the 50s: Bill Haley of Bill Haley & His Comets / from the 60s: The Supremes, The Marvelettes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Aretha Franklin, Mary Wells, Tommy James and the Shondells, ? and the Mysterians / from the 70s: Al Green, The Spinners, Grand Funk Railroad, The Knack/ from the 80s: Madonna, Bob Seger, Ray Parker Jr. / from the 90s: Aaliyah / from the 00s: Eminem.


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 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 Augustus O. Hill.[1][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.


Folklorist Ivan Walton, who taught at the University of Michigan, collected the songs of Great Lakes sailors.[3]

Duane Starcher recorded Woods and Water : Folk songs from Michigan History, released in 1965 on Western Michigan University Aural Press.[4]

The Ark is a folk music venue in Ann Arbor in existence since 1965.


Further information: Music of Detroit § Blues

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


Further information: Music of Detroit § Jazz

Jazz artists born in Detroit include pianists Tommy Flanagan, Hugh Lawson, Barry Harris, Roland Hanna, Kenny Cox, pianist and composer Alice Coltrane, pianist and vibraphonist Terry Pollard, drummers Louis Hayes, Eddie Locke, Oliver Jackson, Roy Brooks, Frank Gant, Gerald Cleaver, Pheeroan akLaff, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, guitarist Kenny Burrell, trombonist Curtis Fuller, French horn player Julius Watkins, saxophonists J. R. Monterose, Faruq Z. Bey, James Carter, Kenny Garrett, baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, double bassist Doug Watkins, trumpeter Donald Byrd, harpist Dorothy Ashby, violinist Regina Carter, and singers Della Reese, Barbara Dane, and Dianne Reeves. Drummer Elvin Jones, trumpeter Thad Jones, and pianist Geri Allen were born in Pontiac. Singer Betty Carter was born in Flint. Double-bassist Ron Carter was born in Ferndale.


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 (#1 with "My Guy"), The Supremes and The Jackson 5. All of these artists had a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit, except Martha & the Vandellas. The Supremes had 12 #1 Billboard Hot 100 hits. The Temptations had 4 #1 Hot 100 hits. Stevie Wonder had 10 #1 Hot 100 hits. 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.


Further information: Music of Detroit § Pop

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

Singer Madonna, born Madonna Ciccone in Bay City, later living in the Rochester 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. Madonna had 12 #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 including "Like a Virgin" from 1984.

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[5] in Lansing & East Lansing were homes to such acts as Feather Canyon, Paddlefoot, Tom Powers, Dan Schafer,[6] Dalan, Travis & Desserts.


Hank Ballard was an early rock and roll artist born in 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, who had a #1 Hot 100 hit with "We're an American Band" in 1973) 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. The Rationals and The Prime Movers formed in Ann Arbor, Unrelated Segments formed in Taylor, Luv'd Ones formed in Niles, and The JuJus formed in Grand Rapids.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, punk rock pioneers like the MC5 and The Stooges (with lead singer Iggy Pop, born in Muskegon) came from southeastern Michigan. These performers had incendiary lyrics and outrageous, highly physical live shows. The Grande Ballroom in Detroit was an important venue for these groups. ? 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. Death from Detroit was active from 1971-1976, a self-released limited single in 1976 being their only release until 2009 when Drag City began releasing the band's unreleased 1970s demo recordings and surviving members reformed the group.

Rodriguez from Detroit began his career in the early 1970s and gained a following in South Africa and Australia.

The "new wave" 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.

The Gories are a garage punk band formed in 1986 in Detroit. The trio consists of Mick Collins (of The Dirtbombs), Dan Kroha (of The Demolition Doll Rods), and Peggy O'Neill. The group originally broke up in 1992, but have reunited since 2009.

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 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, Gore Gore Girls, and The Detroit Cobras.

Notable post-hardcore bands include Chiodos of Davison, I See Stars of Warren, La Dispute of Grand Rapids, and We Came as Romans of Troy.

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 Whirlwind Heat, The Outer Vibe, and The Soil and the Sun of Grand Rapids.


Jad Fair was born in Coldwater. His Name is Alive and Thunderbirds Are Now! are from Livonia. Windy & Carl are from Dearborn. Wolf Eyes formed in Ann Arbor. Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens was born in Detroit and moved to Petoskey at age 9. Stevens' music has allusions and influences from all over the state.


Further information: Music of 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,[7] as well as Necros (Maumee, Ohio), Violent Apathy,[8] Spite (Kalamzaoo),[9] Meatmen, and Crucifucks (Lansing). Tesco Vee, of the Meatmen, launched the first Midwest hardcore record label, Touch & Go. Tesco also helped form an alliance between the Detroit scene and Minor Threat and other Washington, D.C. bands.[10][11]

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. 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.

Hip hop[edit]

In the mid-late 80's, Awesome Dre and the Hard Core Committee along with Prince Vince and the Hip Hop Force were among the first wave of Detroit artists with Awesome Dre becoming the first to go national with videos receiving regular spins on Yo! MTV Raps. Also in the mid-late 80's came others like D The Great, Detroit's Most Wanted, Suavey Spy, Mike Fresh, Ace Lee, Eveready Crew, Esham, J to The D, and Silveree. Some of these acts continued into the 90's which saw the emergence of others local hip-hop artists such as AWOL (not to be confused with AWOL one), Smiley, Kaos & Mystro, The DBGz, Goon Squad, Playskule, Bombshell, and Boss; MF 911 followed. Undoubtedly, Michigan's most famous hip hop star is Eminem. Eminem has had 4 #1 Billboard Hot 100 hits, including "Lose Yourself" from the film 8 Mile in 2002. 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, Danny Brown, Insane Clown Posse, One Be Lo, Big Sean, Guilty Simpson, MaGestik LeGend, The Definition, the late J Dilla and his former group Slum Village, and producer and artist Black Milk.[citation needed] Aaliyah (d. 2001) from Detroit had a #1 Hot 100 hit with "Try Again" in 2000. Neighboring Flint 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.
  1. ^ Gary S Cendrowski; Kelly Asher. "James Hartway Home". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "MTAP Ivan Walton Collection of Great Lakes Songs". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  4. ^ "Woods and Water: Folksongs from Michigan History". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  5. ^ "Lizards Underground-East Lansing, Michigan". Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  6. ^ "Dan Schafer-"Baby, Now that I’ve found you"". Retrieved 2012-01-25. 
  7. ^ Nelson, Jason."Degenerates (Online Band Profile / Biography)".
  8. ^ Sauter, Cale (June 20, 2007). "Michigan hardcore pioneers Violent Apathy reunite for shows". City Pulse. Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  9. ^ Nelson, Jason. "Spite (Online Band Profile & Biography)".
  10. ^ Rettman, Tony (2008). "Michigan hardcore pioneers Violent Apathy reunite for shows". Swindle (issue 12). Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  11. ^ "Punk Rock In Michigan By Henry Weld". Retrieved 2015-10-26.