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The Music Lover’s Guide to Detroit Rock City

Michigan

The Music Lover’s Guide to Detroit Rock City

By: Kelli Korducki

Lou Peeples / Michigan Economic Development Corporation
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From Motown legends Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin to Madonna, Eminem and the White Stripes, these internationally renowned artists share the same roots in the city that launched their careers:

Detroit, Michigan. Known as the Motor City or Motown for its history as a nexus of automobile manufacturing, this legendary city has maintained its reputation as a thrumming hub of musical energy for the better part of a century.

Inside Detroit’s Musical Roots

Detroit’s auto industry in the 1910s attracted a mass migration of African Americans from the Southern USA, bringing rich musical influences from the Mississippi Delta and adjacent regions. By the 1920s, the city was considered a destination for jazz and blues music. In the decades that followed, it became a prolific cradle of gospel, rhythm and blues, soul and rock ’n’ roll, and gave birth to the eponymously named Motown Records, a label that helped popularize music by artists such as artists such as Stevie Wonder and the Supremes.

Take in a Concert

Detroit came of age during the height of the 1920s art deco design period, preserved immaculately within the city’s theater district. As the second-largest theater district in the U.S., visitors can experience a taste of history at iconic performance halls like the Majestic, the Fillmore Detroit or the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts. Located along the city’s central corridor of Woodward Avenue, these venues regularly feature concerts by national touring artists like Lauryn Hill, Diplo, Fall Out Boy and the Flaming Lips.

Internationally recognized musicians have played at the Majestic Theatre since 1915.

Internationally recognized musicians have played at the Majestic Theatre since 1915.
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Chris Balow / Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Get Down in Motown

No music lover’s visit to Detroit would be complete without a stop at Hitsville, U.S.A., the nickname of the headquarters of the record label Motown Records. Founded in 1985 in the city’s New Center neighborhood, The Motown Museum houses the studio where stars like the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded classic hits, as well as photographs and memorabilia of its chart-topping artists.

See the studio, now the Motown Museum, where artists like Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie and the Commodores recorded hits.

See the studio, now the Motown Museum, where artists like Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie and the Commodores recorded hits.
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Motown Museum

Jazz It Up

Built in 1935 and recently restored, Cliff Bell’s is a beloved downtown jazz club that once hosted legends like Paul Williams and T.J. Fowler. Mahogany walls and vaulted ceilings give the atmosphere an old-fashioned, speakeasy feel lending to the vibe of the historic venue’s nightly live jazz shows. Make an evening of it by dining in during the show and taking advantage of Cliff Bell’s upscale New American menu.

Move Your Body

Widely considered the birthplace of techno, Detroit upholds its digital dance music legacy with a thriving electronic dance music culture that peaks during the last weekend of May when the three-day Movement Electronic Music Festival takes hold of downtown’s Hart Plaza. Bring clothing you can move in and don’t forget your dancing shoes.

Discover emerging and established techno artists at the Movement Electronic Music Festival.

Discover emerging and established techno artists at the Movement Electronic Music Festival.
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Douglas Wojciechowski / Movement Detroit