Monday, December 17, 2012

Brainstorming Detroit - Detroit Music Museum Village

I have been waiting for inspiration for quite some time.  So my posts will be about my city, Detroit.

Queen Maker and I have been rediscovering our youth by visiting all our favorite places when we were dating.  Ours was a young love so transportation was an issue and so was money.  We quickly learned that the city offered  much and fun could be had with very little cash.

My love for Detroit is rekindled.

Today we went to the Detroit Historical Museum.  It's been over 30 years since I have been there. The museum was free.  It's Sunday so parking on the street is free.  Don't worry we made a donation.  The museum made me feel pride in my city.  So I was inspired to share an idea I have been kicking around in my head for a few years, just brainstorming here.


With such a rich history as innovators in multiple music genres, why doesn't Detroit capitalize on a very proud lineage with an attraction that I think would draw many fans from all over the world.  Detroit is known and remembered for so many things and here is yet another facet of greatness, its extraordinary musical history that has not been fully recognized or honored in any tangible, concrete way. Concrete meaning a building. It reminds me of a big family where the accomplishments of the eldest children are well documented with film and tons of pictures but by the time the youngest child comes along parents have little time or inclination to document the newbie’s every move, no matter how great. Detroit’s music history reminds me of that child.

Detroit still has an energized music scene.  Musicians here have learned to create a synergistic and cooperative community that survives by helping each other and by creating their own opportunities. By honoring the Detroit music scene and history, we may well help in the revitalization of the city. It may also remind us to direct our attention to the talent still here making music in Detroit.  With a new focus on showcasing Detroit’s music, it may rekindle a sense pride in the citizens of Detroit past and present, musicians and audience, because we were all active participants in this rich musical history.  


My idea is to create a historical music park, much like a Greenfield Village, probably on a smaller scale.  But now considering the scope of the history involved it might be quite a large park indeed.  I suggest moving the Motown’s Hitsville USA to this new park, Bakers Keyboard Lounge, and other great venues if they still exist or to re-create them.  The park would represent the different genres of music that Detroit was at the forefront or originators such as Techno, Punk, Jazz, Gospel, Rhythm and Blues from the “Black Bottom” era to Motown, Pop, Rock and Rap. 

I'm not sure where the location should be, maybe not directly downtown. The music park or village should be strategically placed to help revitalize yet another area of Detroit.  We’ll let the planners figure this one out. Also I know this would be a costly project, and I don't have the funds to make it happen, so I will leave it to someone with access to major bucks.  Okay, maybe we could just put up a very nice Detroit Music Museum. Not as costly.

But hey, I'm brainstorming.

Historically accurate buildings or “clubs” built representing each genre or era of music or combine some genres.  Museums where fans can view memorabilia, artifacts, stand in recording studios along with actual music clubs that would draw music lovers from all over the world into the city.  Remember CKLW, the radio station coming out of Windsor in the 60's and 70's?  I can still hear the jingle in my head. Annual festivals or events, music centers, historic re-creations, rock schools, even a speak easy (to represent the prohibition era), club nights where patrons could “hop from club to club” to experience a great night of music.  Let's throw a little Salsa in there as well. My Latin roots require me to mention it. We could also honor so many great musicians that still live in the city before it is too late. I'm not even going to try to name them all. If you are from Detroit you know the list is impressive.

By creating a historical park or music museum instead of an entertainment center, we show the rest of the world how "Detroiters" value and honor the Detroit music scene past and present. It will trigger tourism in yet another area that is Pure Michigan.  So many people around the world view our musical history with admiration and are already great fans.  

When I travel and mention my hometown of Detroit, reactions are swift and my hosts blurt out their first impression of what the word Detroit invokes. Most are very positive which helps remind me of Detroit’s positive historical significance.  I hear enthusiastic phrases like: “The Motor City!” “The Car Capital of the World!”  “Ford Country.”  “Detroit is a great sports town!” “Go Red Wings, or Tigers, or Lions, or Pistons!” “Motown! Hitsville, USA!”  These people live hundreds or thousands of miles from Detroit, but all spoke of Detroit as the great city that gave them cars, great sports, and fantastic music.

I was recently made aware of a new book called Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Five Decades of Rock, by author Steve Miller, coming out in April 2013.  Check out the Detroit Rock City page.  This is what I am talking about.  This is the type of historic documentation that needs to be done on a grand scale and in a very public way.

We have Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum. We have the Automotive Hall of Fame.  We have the Detroit Historical Museum, the Detroit Institute of Art, and other great historic villages and wonderful museums dotted all over the Metro Detroit area.  Belle Isle is a gem.  The river front revitalized.  We have new sports stadiums.  The theaters and music halls around the area have been renovated to their past glory.  They all send powerful messages that Detroit is still a great city and honor Detroit's accomplishment in art, culture, technology, and sports in a big way.  The one area that seems to be lacking is the historical significance of Detroit’s music scene, its originality and innovations, its artists, and their contributions to the pop culture of the United States and its influence on the world.

Some tourists make the pilgrimage to the little house on Grand Blvd to stand in the same studio where so many Motown greats have stood before, but I think we could give them more.  I believe we have so much more to offer.

Here is an opportunity to rekindle the pride we feel in Detroit’s contributions to music in a concrete way, to help revitalize the present Detroit music scene, bring in a new wave of tourism, and revitalize another area of Detroit.  Music is the universal language.  It unites people from different backgrounds, cultures, and race.  Detroit’s music history has its own voice, its own dialect and it should be heard again, loud and clear.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have some great ideas. I think it would be interestIng to find out the history on how Cleveland was able to establish the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Perhaps Detroit could learn a lesson from their experience. Another fine post, Ellie.

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