5 Musical Landmarks that Define Detroit

By: Michael Fossbakk | June 26, 2017

Soul. Blues. Hip-hop. Motown. All of these words may as well be synonymous with Detroit. For more than half a century, Detroit has built itself up as the birthplace of music in a variety of styles and forms. While many of the landmarks that serve as reminders of Detroit’s musical history are no longer here, there are several that still stand. It’s time for a history lesson, readers because today we bring you five musical landmarks that define the sound of Detroit.

Where Aretha Franklin recorded her first album

Did you know Aretha Franklin recorded her first album, Songs of Faith, at the age of 14? Yeah? Well, did you know where she recorded it? That would be New Bethel Baptist Church, which is still around today in Detroit on Linwood Street. Songs of Faith was a gospel album and has been re-released under several other names such as The Gospel Soul of Aretha Franklin and Aretha’s Gospel. Franklin also recorded another album, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, at the Church in 1987.

Motown’s The Supremes former homes on Buena Vista

In 1965, when The Supremes had just started to land on pop charts, all three members — Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Diana Ross — purchased homes on Buena Vista with the help of their producer Berry Gordy. Two years later, Gordy kicked Ballard from the group and in the 1970s, the house was foreclosed on. Take a trip down Buena Vista and you can still see these beautiful homes today.

B-B Recording Studio

In the 1950s and 1960s, Bristoe “BB” Bryant owned a recording studio in the basement of his home on Alexandrine Street. It was when Detroit soul music pioneer Robert West wanted to record The Falcons’ “You’re So Fine” in 1959 that he chose to record it at BB’s. Legend has it that The Falcons lead singer Joe Stubbs recorded his vocals in BB’s basement bathroom because of the enclosed space it provided. “You’re So Fine” has been credited as the first soul record and broke a million in sales.

Conant Gardens: Home to many of Detroit’s hip-hop artists

Were it not for Conant Gardens in northern Detroit, we may not have been privy to hip-hop legends like J Dilla and the rest of the hip-hop group known as Slum Village. Other notable hip-hop names to come out of Conant Gardens include Omar S and Amp Fiddler, who introduced Dilla to the MPC 2000, a 64-track MIDI sequencer that Dilla used to make beats for A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu, Common, Ghostface and De La Soul.

The house where Marvin Gaye wrote What’s Going On

Play the title track of Marvin Gaye’s politically-inspired album What’s Going On and most people will instantly recognize it, even if they can’t name its author. Gaye, a Motown legend, owned a home in Detroit on Outer Drive for a time and it is said that he wrote much of the 1970s concept album in that house. It was the first of Gaye’s albums where he is credited as its producer.

As you can see, Detroit has a very storied history in music. What other musical landmarks are your favorites?