Cover image for Dancing in the street : Motown and the cultural politics of Detroit
Dancing in the street : Motown and the cultural politics of Detroit
Smith, Suzanne E., 1964-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
319 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3792 .S65 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
ML3792 .S65 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
ML3792 .S65 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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1960s Detroit was a city with a pulse: people were marching in step with Martin Luther King, Jr.; dancing in the street with Martha and the Vandellas; facing off with city police and through it all, Motown provided the beat. This book tells the story of Motown - as both musical style and entrepreneurial phenomenon - and of its intrinsic relationship to the politics and culture of Motor Town, USA.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

That Detroit birthed a black music style, Motown, that conquered the white market at a time of unprecedented racial and social upheaval has attracted much comment. Investigation, Smith observes, has concentrated on how a black company, Motown Records, succeeded with white audiences and on the civil rights movement's effect on that success by fostering "broader cultural integration." Smith probes deeper. "If the gains of the civil rights movement facilitated Motown's success," she asks, "how did this process work?" Were the rise of the movement and the rise of the music merely coincidental? "Moreover, if Motown's success fostered racial tolerance in any way, why did the company maintain such an ambivalent relationship to the larger social movements that were occurring around it?" Tough stuff for a pop music book, but Smith answers rationally and evocatively in a serious book about the music biz that is excellent for pop music collections and downright obligatory for serious pop culture collections. --Mike Tribby

Library Journal Review

Smith (history, George Mason Univ.) uses Motown to examine the shift in African American protest ideologies from integration to separatism. Motown, she argues, sprang from the strong tradition of black cultural and economic self-determination that was at the foundation of Detroit's most important black institutions, such as poet Margaret Danner's Boone House and WCHB, the first African American-owned radio station. Smith chastises Motown for its hesitating to change with the times, as Detroit-based Black Muslims became more vocal in their demand for African American rights and the 1967 riot broke out. She also suggests that the label's relocation from Detroit to Los Angeles in 1972 is final evidence of the bankruptcy of its version of African American capitalism. Writing in a somewhat choppy style and using mostly secondary sources, Smith successfully contextualizes Motown within Detroit culture, but she na¬čvely condemns the logical consequences of the entrepreneurial spirit that drove its founder, Berry Gordy Jr., from his Detroit home to an international audience. Recommended for libraries serving social historians.--David P. Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

"Can't Forget the Motor City"
"In Whose Heart There Is No Song, To Him the Miles Are Many and Long": Motown and Detroit's Great March to Freedom
"Money (That's What I Want)": Black Capitalism and Black Freedom in Detroit
"Come See About Me": Black Cultural Production in Detroit
"Afro-American Music, without Apology": The Motown Sound and the Politics of Black Culture
"The Happening": Detroit, 1967
"What's Going On?" Motown and New Detroit
Conclusion: "Come Get These Memories"