Yes, Detroit!

Detroit skyline seen from Windsor, Ontario. (Chris Farina/The Detroit News)

This year I’ve done some traveling for performances and music business. I’ve been surprised about the negative reactions when people have asked where I’m from, and I’ve said “near Detroit.”

No, I don’t live in the city of Detroit, but I was born there, and my family on both sides has a history in Detroit. I wanted to live out in the country, so I actually live in Hamburg Township, a place that few Michiganders have even heard of. So, when I meet people from far away, I say Detroit, because everybody knows where that is.

The reactions about Detroit included things like, “Detroit? You don’t actually live IN Detroit, do you?” and, through a light chuckle, “Detroit? That’s still there?” Yes, it’s still there. It’s still here. And if people out there have forgotten the importance of Detroit to both the world at large and music history, that’s a pity. Henry Ford was a pioneer that changed the entire developed world. LA would be very different without cars now, wouldn’t it? Motown’s Berry Gordy signed amazing acts like the Jackson 5 in Detroit, and helped develop Michael Jackson, a major influence on today’s major pop stars like Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber. Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder are cited as key influences by many others. Those artists only represent a small portion and a tiny sliver of time. There are many, many more, that go further back, and in different genres. Detroit has spawned amazing creativity that has gone on to influence our culture on a large scale.

From Detroit? Yes. My roots here are deep and solid, and I’m proud of the generations of my Detroit bloodlines. I think it’s not something to look down on or regard in horror, but something to be proud of. And as my music gets out there around the country and further, I’ll continue to say that I’m from the Detroit area. The people here are friendly, real, and resilient. Both historically and today, the bed of homegrown talent in Southeast Michigan is rich and remarkable, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

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