Culture of Detroit

The culture of Detroit, Michigan, has influenced American and global culture through its commercial enterprises and various forms of popular music throughout the 20th and 21st century. Its automotive heritage plays an important role in the city's culture.

Entertainment and performing arts

Music has been the dominant feature of Detroit's nightlife since the late 1940s. The metropolitan area boasts two of the top live music venues in the U.S. DTE Energy Music Theatre (formerly Pine Knob) was the most attended summer venue in the U.S. in 2005 for the fifteenth consecutive year, while the now closed, Palace of Auburn Hills ranked twelfth, according to music industry source Pollstar.[1] Detroit's major performance centers include Orchestra Hall home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Opera House, the Fox Theatre, Masonic Temple Theatre, the Fisher Theatre, and the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Through the 1950s Detroit was a jazz center with stars of the era often came to Detroit's Black Bottom neighborhood to perform.[2] One highlight of Detroit's musical history was Motown Records success during the 1960s and early 1970s, founded in Detroit by Berry Gordy Jr. and home to popular recording acts including Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross & the Supremes. Also during the late 1960s, Detroiter Aretha Franklin became America's preeminent female soul artist, recording on the competing Atlantic Records label.

In the late 1960s, Metro Detroit was the epicenter for high-energy rock music with (MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges),[3][4] the precursors of the punk rock movement. Rock acts from southeast Michigan that enjoyed success in the 1970s were Bob Seger, Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes, Alice Cooper, The Romantics and Grand Funk Railroad as well as more recent acts like Marshall Crenshaw, Kid Rock, The White Stripes, The Von Bondies and Madonna. The Detroit area is generally accepted as the birthplace of the Techno movement, which has grown from local radio and clubs to dance venues worldwide. The three musicians most frequently credited with giving birth to Techno are Derrick May, Juan Atkins, and Kevin Saunderson. Hip hop rose to prominence in the late nineties with the emergence of Eminem, the rap artist with the highest cumulative sales.[5][6] Other Detroit hip-hop artists include Insane Clown Posse, Aaliyah, D12, Royce Da 5'9" Teairra Mari, Obie Trice, Trick Trick, Rock Bottom, and the late Blade Icewood, Slum Village.

Creative studies

Several "New Media" online writers, graphic designers, journalists have emerged from Detroit. Westland native a former Detroit resident Tim "Fuzzy" Jones has taken elements from Hunter S. Thompsons Gonzo style of journalism and added his own flair to the internet and web video. Considering himself a "Graphic Journalist/Humorist", Jones points to places like the now famous C-POP Gallery, the techno music movement and the world class schools like the College for Creative Studies, is where Abdul Haqq Qadim Studied Art and is responsible for 25 years of Detroit Techno Art for the album covers of all the greats. Wayne State University and of course the University of Michigan as foundational sparks that allowed the blaze of what's happening creatively online now. "This recession is crippling a lot of people" says Jeff Bloomer. The artist, teacher and former CCS student talks on: "Creativity will not only live online, it will thrive because it can be shared with people all over the world."


The annual "Fash Bash," a major fashion event, typically held in the Renaissance Center's Winter Garden or the Fox Theatre in August celebrates Detroit Fashion Week.[7] Coordinated by the Detroit Institute of Arts, the event features celebrities and models showcasing the latest fashion trends.

Fashion designers that have enjoyed global success include Anna Sui who was born and raised in the city. The designer draws heavy inspiration from Detroit's music scene of the 1960s and 1970s including local bands such as the MC5.[8][9][10][11]

In 1991, a cultural phenomenon began among hair salons which evolved into the Detroit Hair Wars. Trendsetting salons, like Hair N Shears II, on The Avenue of Fashion, helped usher in this trend. A showcase of fantastical hairpiece creations, often using human hair as the main content, has since become a national trend among African-American hair-styling tours.[12]

Festivals and events

Detroit has three major events that are associated with the automobile industry: the North American International Auto Show (January until 2019, then June), Society of Automotive Engineers world congress (April) and the Woodward Dream Cruise (August). Annual music events in the city include the DEMF/Movement/Fuse-In electronic music festival (May), Concert of Colors (July), Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival (September), Dally in the Alley (September) and Arts, Beats and Eats (September). Annual art events include the Dirty Show International Erotic Exhibition [13] (February), People's Art Festival (August), the DAMNED Exhibition[14] (October), and Noel Night[15] (December).

The Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival features a fireworks display over the Detroit International Riverfront and coincides with U.S. Independence day (July 4) and Canada Day (July 1). The Detroit Windsor International Film Festival is a major film festival also shared with the city of Windsor. The New Center summer events and Detroit Thunderfest hydroplane races which take place in July. African World Festival and Detroit Fashion Week happen in August. The America's Thanksgiving Parade, originally the Hudson's Thanksgiving Day Parade, is one of the nation's largest and has been held continuously since 1924.[16]

Hosted by the United Irish Societies, the Detroit St. Patrick's Parade is one of the largest St. Patrick's parades in North America and is held annually in Corktown.[17]

The day before Ash Wednesday, or the festival of Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, is more frequently celebrated locally as "Paczki Day" by the large Polish population. Many Metro Detroiters join in the festivity by indulging in jelly-filled donuts called paczkis.[18]

The Bayview Yacht Club sponsors the annual Port Huron to Mackinac Boat Race as well as a number of other regional and local regattas.

Two large LGBT Pride events are held annually in Detroit. Motor City Pride, started in 1972 and currently produced by Equality Michigan, is held the second weekend of June in Hart Plaza and is attended by over 40,000 people.[19] Hotter Than July! is a week-long black gay pride celebration held annually since 1996 is attended by over 20,000 people and produced by the Detroit Black Pride Society and KICK.[20]

Events introduced in the 2010s include the Motown Winter Blast [21] in February and the Detroit River Days [22] in June .

Ethnic culture

Greektown Historic District is a popular restaurant and entertainment district established by Greek immigrants and residents, having many restaurants that serve Greek cuisine, as well as one of the city's three casinos, Greektown Casino. Certain buildings on Monroe Street are themed to resemble the Parthenon, Pegasus, and other forms of Greek architecture. Greek music is played on Monroe Street throughout the day. Well-known restaurants include The Laikon Cafe, Cyprus Taverna, Pegasus Taverna, and Pizza Papalis. St. Mary Roman Catholic Church, founded by German immigrants, is located in the heart of the district. Jacoby's German Biergarten (1904), the city's oldest surviving pub, provides a small performance space for up & coming acts in nearby Bricktown. German immigrants also founded St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church on the city's central east side, near the Eastern Market Historic District. Immigrants contributed to the area's notable architecture, especially during the Gilded Age.[23]

Corktown Historic District is the oldest surviving neighborhood in Detroit, dating to the 1850s. The name comes from the Irish immigrants who settled there; they were predominantly from County Cork. The neighborhood is primarily residential, but the district does include some commercial buildings, mostly along Michigan Avenue.

Mexicantown had a 6.9 percent population rise to 96,000 from 1990 to 2000, the city's revitalized Mexicantown has improved the local economy. About half the residents are Hispanic, 25% are African-American, 20% are White and 5% are Arab-American, according to the Southwest Detroit Business Association.[24] It is known for Mexican cuisine at restaurants such as Mexican Village, Evie's Tamales, El Zocalo and Xochimilco. Restaurants, bakeries, and shops are located on Vernor Highway. Mexicantown has had a thriving economy in the 2000s, as evidenced by new housing and increased business openings.[24] Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church is north of the Ambassador Bridge. West Vernor-Junction Historic District, another largely Hispanic neighborhood, which contains the Most Holy Reedemer Church is adjacent to Mexicantown.

The Detroit area's diverse population includes French, Belgian, German, Hispanic, Polish, Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, and Black populations, with each adding its rich cultural traditions.[25] Detroit became famous for its music legacies; major blues singers, big bands, and jazz artists—such as Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, and Count Basie—regularly performed in night clubs.

The east necklace of downtown links Grand Circus and the stadium area to Greektown along Broadway. The east necklace contains a sub-district sometimes called the Harmonie Park District in the Broadway Avenue Historic District which has preserved part of the renowned legacy of Detroit's music from the 1930s through the 1950s and into the present.[26] The historic Harmonie Club and Harmonie Centre are located along Broadway. The Harmonie Park area ends near Gratiot and Randolph. Near the Detroit Opera House, and emanating from Grand Circus along the east necklace, are other venues including the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts and the Gem Theatre and Century Club.

In 1959, Berry Gordy founded Motown Records, one of the first black-owned record labels. Over the next decade, a number of top artists, including The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, signed with the label. The Second Baptist Church once served as "station" for the Underground Railroad. A monument to the Underground Railroad was erected in 2001 at Hart Plaza downtown.

The Shrine of the Black Madonna of the Pan-African Orthodox Christian Church was founded in 1953 by the Rev. Albert B. Cleage. One of the churches' institutions is the Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center & Bookstore, one of the nation's oldest black-owned bookstores.

The Graystone International Jazz Museum documents jazz in Detroit.[27][28]

Perhaps the most legendary is Joe Louis, heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949. Louis is memorialized with a sculpture of a giant fist at the intersection of Jefferson and Woodward Avenues, as well as in the name of Joe Louis Arena.

Cultural and social clubs

Sister cities

Detroit has seven sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:[29]

Detroit has a long and very close relationship with nearby Windsor, Ontario

See also


  1. DTE Energy Music Theatre Listed as 2004 Top Attended Amphitheatre (1/25/05 Archived December 23, 2005, at the Wayback Machine. DTE Energy Music Theatre.
  2. Herb Boyd (9/17/97) Cookin' in the Motor City. The Metro Times.
  3. Harrington, Joe (2002). Sonic Cool: The Life and Death of Rock'N'Roll. Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-634-02861-8., p. 251.
  4. Bogdanov, Vladimir and Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, John Bush (2002). All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul (3rd Ed.). Hal Leonard: Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-653-X.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. Bogdanov, Vladimir and Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, John Bush (2003). All Music Guide to Hip-Hop: The Definitive Guide to Rap and Hip-Hop. Hal Leonard: Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-759-5.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  6. Gavrilovich, Peter; Bill McGraw (2000). The Detroit Almanac. Detroit Free Press. ISBN 0-937247-34-0.
  7. Hodges, Michael H. (September 8, 2003).Fox Theater's rebirth ushered in city's renewal Archived December 5, 2012, at Michigan History, The Detroit News
  8. "General Motors and Fashion Industry Target Breast Cancer Through Concept:Cure" (Press release). General Motors Corporation. October 21, 1997. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  9. Eels, Josh (April 5, 2012). "Jack Outside the Box: Jack White Is the Coolest, Weirdest, Savviest Rock Star of Our Time". New York Times. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  10. McGonigal, Mike (March 23, 2016). "How Third Man's giant Detroit location is becoming the ultimate D.I.Y. ecosystem". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  11. Boyd, Kayla (November 10, 2015). "Anna Sui talks fashion, success at Michigan Theater". Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  12. Sarah Klein (7 April 2004). "Tressed to kill". Metrotimes. Retrieved September 25, 2006.
  13. "The Dirty Show". The Dirty Show. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
  14. "DAMNED Exhibition".
  15. "Noel Night". Archived from the original on 2013-10-31. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
  16. Everyone Loves a Parade Archived 2006-06-03 at the Wayback Machine. The Parade Company.
  17. Baetens, Baetens (March 6, 2019). "Corktown's St. Patrick's Parade celebrates Detroit's Irish heritage". The Detroit News. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  18. Robert Strybel (2/5/01). Polish fast food in America?.
  19. "LGBT supporters pack Hart Plaza for biggest Motor City Pride in history". The South End. June 9, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  20. Collins, Andrew. "Hotter Than July 2013 - Detroit Black Gay Pride 2013". Retrieved December 6, 2013.
  21. "Motown Winter Blast". Retrieved 2014-01-15.
  22. "Detroit River Days". Detroit River Days. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
  23. "see neighborhoods". Cityscape Detroit. Archived from the original on 2013-12-15. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
  24. Williams, Corey (February 28, 2008).New Latino Wave Helps Revitalize Detroit. USA Today. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  25. Baulch, Vivian M. (September 4, 1999). Michigan's greatest treasure – Its people Archived July 31, 2007, at Michigan History, The Detroit News. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  26. Harmonie Park District Archived 2015-05-09 at the Wayback Machine.Retrieved on August 23, 2009.
  27. The Graystone International Jazz Museum Archived September 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  28. Swinging Through Time: The Graystone Museum and the story of Detroit jazz Archived 2008-05-01 at the Wayback Machine
  29. "Sister Cities Program | City of Detroit". Archived from the original on 2010-06-29. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  30. "International Sister Cities". Archived from the original on January 17, 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  31. "Città di Torino – Relazioni Internazionali". April 7, 1998. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
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