At long last I have finished reading "Detroit 67 - The Year That Changed Soul" by Stuart Cosgrove. 426 pages of well-researched delving into the true story of Tamla Motown and the city that spawned it.
The book is divided into twelve chapters that take us through the months of a critical year in Detroit's history, focussing particularly upon the key players in the Motown story - notably Berry Gordy, Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and Detroit's police force.
Stuart Cosgrove, a Scottish academic and music obsessive, tries to make sense of 1967, joining up the dots while looking both back in time and forward.
It has taken me far too long to read and I guess that's because I was never a big fan of soul music or the Detroit sound. I didn't much care about the in-fighting of The Supremes or the ways in which Berry Gordy sought to manage and progress the phenomenon that was Motown.
This was the book's first sentence: "Berry Gordy's townhouse on the exposed corner of Outer Drive and Monica was trapped in a furious wind tunnel" and this was the last: "It was not the end of the assembly line, but it was never the same again, and in a very real sense it was the end of Detroit's place at the forefront of world music - and the end of sixties soul".
Between those sentences there is a lot to take in and process. I guess I read it all because the book was passed on to me by a friend. There was an element of duty about the time I devoted to it - an estimated sixteen hours spread over several weeks. The next book I shall soon start to read is one I have chosen myself and I have wanted to read it for a long time. I am hoping that it grips me and motivates me to keep turning the pages, over and over again with hunger to know what happened next.
Whats the next book?ReplyDelete
"Uncle Tom's Cabin"Delete
I like Soul music and the Motown sound, and would probably find the book very interesting. To know some background to a song, a painting, a film etc. usually enhances my experience of it.ReplyDelete
I know what you mean about a sense of duty when someone gives you a book. Having said that, there is still one large tome on my to-be-read pile that I was given in 2018 for my 50th birthday.
Now I am interested in what your next read will be.
I used to be a fan of Motown music but was far too young back then to understand the "politics" behind it all. I just liked singing along to the radio.ReplyDelete
Motown was a big thing both in pop music and in the social history of black Amerricans. The book makes that very clear.Delete
I like the last line in the book. My partner's sister in Newcastle UT is a Motown fan and quite knowledgeable about the genre. I don't mind it but my taste is for newer music from my teen and twenties years.ReplyDelete
Does she live in Utah? I thought they only sang Mormon hymns there.Delete
Like JayCee, I like Motown music, but didn't know the backstory.ReplyDelete
I can never hear "My Girl" (The Temptations) without thinking about my first boyfriend singing it to 15 year old me as we danced to it. It had only just been released. Fortunately, BF had a good voice, danced well and was a very nice guy. So a good memory.
Thanks for sharing that poignant memory Mary. One thing that the book has left me with is an urge to listen to the studio album "What's Going On?" by Marvin Gaye. Of course I never heard it the first time round.Delete
Motown was a huge part of my growing up years and I am so grateful. The music business is a business though, isn't it? No matter the genre from country to classic, music is a commodity and rarely are the artists the ones who make the money.ReplyDelete
There's a delicate balance be struck betweeb making money and artistic integrity. You might like this book Mary.Delete
Stuart Cosgrave talked about his book in Waterstones Glasgow.ReplyDelete
The cover photo is perfect, the look of performance anxiety on Diana's face.
I don't think the photo was set up; the mirror image was a lucky accident; they happened all the time to Cartier-Bresson, because he went looking for such images.
The Canadian journalist Gene Lees set the gold standard for books like Stuart's: careful research, long hours of listening, and prose as good as The New Yorker's.
*Singers and the Song* and *Meet Me at Jim and Andy's - Jazz Musicians and Their World* were published by Lees as Oxford Uni paperbacks.
Lees wrote the lyrics to the song Yesterday I Heard the Rain (YouTube) recorded by Tony Bennett and Shirley Bassey.
I purchased *Uncle Tom's Cabin* as an Oxford paperback because of its beautiful cover: A young black woman from South Africa, name unknown.
You can see the painter's other work online.
I had avoided the novel because of its pious moralising which black people came to loathe (read James Baldwin) but it is a disturbing story for all its faults.
The whipping houses, to which young black women were sent, is mentioned in the last third of the text. These were places of sexual abuse and nothing else.
We will never know the stories of black lives shattered, families broken up because of chattel slavery.
Then after Abolition, a century of segregation.
Your younger readers can read online about the great Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man.
Shame that Rosa Parks is remembered for that one moment when she did so much else for civil rights during the decades she worked in Detroit. She is referred to in Stuart Cosgrove's book.Delete
There is interest again in the Harlem Renaissance.Delete
Wallace Thurman (1902-1934) wrote *The Sweeter the Berry* (Penguin Modern Classic) about a young Negress (as we used to say) who hates having very black skin. This was before we understood that black is beautiful.
Ann Petry (1908-1997) has had her 1946 debut novel *The Street* republished by Virago, a portrait of black women in pre-war New York.
There is revived interest by publishers in Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) Nella Larson (1891-1964) Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) Dorothy West (1907-1998) Audre Lord (1934-1992) Octavia E Butler (1947-2006) and other African American writers.
There are new paperbacks on West Indians who came to post-war Britain.
*Homecoming - Voices of the Windrush Generation* by Colin Grant.
*Lovers and Strangers* by Clair Wills.
*Mother Country* - a lively oral history edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff.
It sounds pretty fascinating! There were a lot of strong personalities in that period of genius. I wonder if in the future anyone will be analyzing contemporary music in quite the same way?ReplyDelete
Good question. What happened in Detroit was special - perhaps unique.Delete
In 1998 there was a popular mini-series that documented the career of the Temptations, dirt and all. I love their music, but really prefer not to know all the sordid details. (of which Marvin Gaye had his share, but oh could that man sing!) The Temptations still tour with sole original member Otis Williams. We got to see them in a small venue a few years ago and it was excellent.ReplyDelete
I guess you have already heard Marvin Gaye's album - "What's Going On?". I am going to order a CD version.Delete