This is your first music book. What lies behind
The main thing is my lifetime passion for the music of
The city also has a unique political and cultural place in North America, and is different from other
It had a majority black population like
Following the war the “great migration” was very important to
And because of the car plants and arms factories it was one of the most industrialised and militant cities.
There were militant political disputes in the car plants.
Yet by 1967 that was all breaking up—and that’s fascinating to study.
Figures that feature in the book, such as journalist John Sinclair, were more political than record label Motown’s head
Motown was an incredible breakthrough because it was a black-owned company.
It wasn’t reliant on interests from outside, but owned lock, stock and barrel by Berry Gordy and the Gordy family.
You had guys such as John Sinclair, who was part of the counter culture that was sweeping across the world during that time.
In contrast, Gordy was not political or part of that counter culture.
But Motown was making more of a political statement by being a black-owned company.
How did the two link together?
Politics is one thing that makes
In 1967, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (Drum) was already beginning. Militants such as general Gordon Baker had been in
They then set up revolutionary cadres in
It was one of the places where the Black Panther Party didn’t have such a prominent status, because
One thing that excited me wasn’t just the counter culture but the city’s alternative history.
That’s where John Sinclair connects to it. He was from
You had the Communist Party, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union and it was part of the mass sit-down strikes.
So Sinclair had grown up in an area that was the epicentre of radicalism.
You’ve used personal accounts and archives to research the book. Is there anything that surprised you?
I’ve described it as the “Klondike Country” of soul, with everyone panning for the gold of African American music.
Throughout the 1960s to around 1975 the city was burgeoning with independent labels – such as Golden World – that were competitors to Motown.
Motown music is always portrayed as just about love, but its artists were always engaged with politics.
There was a lot of support for the Civil Rights movement.
For instance, the singer Kim Weston was part of raising money for the voter registration drives in the South.
I wasn’t really surprised. But that people were doing this hasn’t really been written about before.
What’s next for the trilogy?
The next book is
It’s going to look at segregation in the South and the rise of the Civil Rights Movement.
Then it’s Harlem ’69 –
It looks at a concert that was staged in
It going to be all about how
You’re also planning a book on Northern Soul. If you think of the Northern Soul film last year, it didn’t have any context. What’s the book going to look at?
It’s in the early stages at the moment.
But it’s not just about the Northern Soul scene as a soul scene, but about how
Do you see any parallels with what’s going on the
If you look at the August 67 chapter in the book, it looks at how a rogue unit of the
It was witnessed by members of The Dramatics band.
Despite going through the courts the family has never got justice.
This is the equivalent of what happened in
When I wrote the chapter a year ago I had no idea it would be so prescient. It shows that
When Hip Hop’s done well and politically, instead of just about self aggregation, it can really communicate something about our times.
It’s an immense way of communicating political change–anything that exposes the racism of the police force is welcome.
Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul
by Stuart Cosgrove,
£18, Clayton Media, out now
Monday 11 May 6.30pm
Bookmarks Bookshop, London WC1B 3QE
Admission £2, Reserve your place here or call 020 7637 1848