Motown – The Music That Inspired Detroit ’67

Detroit '67 StageNotes


Motown: the Musical Inspiration for Detroit ‘67

By Theresa M. MacNaughton, Communications & Community Engagement Associate

“No matter how low you get, the music is something that lifts you out of your muck. It speaks to our better selves, to places where we grow and live and love. That’s the way folks have been able to survive.” Playwright Dominique Morisseau

Berry Gordy, Jr.
Berry Gordy, Jr.

Music plays a major role in Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit ’67.  Detroit is famously known as the birthplace of Motown, founded in 1959 by Berry Gordy, Jr., a young African-American businessman.  The label officially incorporated as the Motown Record Corporation in 1960. Motown, a clever combination of motor and town, produced some of the music industry’s most influential recording artists – including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Four Tops, Lionel Richie & the Commodores, Diana Ross & the Supremes and The Jackson 5.

Diana Ross
Diana Ross

According to the Motown Museum website, no other record company in history has made such an enormous impact on both the style and substance of popular music and culture. The label’s original headquarters, located at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, was deservedly nicknamed “Hitsville U.S.A.” While the Motown Record Corporation no longer operates as an independent label, it has earned its rightful place in history for using music as a vehicle to help bridge a racially-divided country.

Here are some of the classic Motown songs that were popular during the time period in which Detroit ’67 was set:

Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye
  • “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” – The Temptations
  • “Shop Around” – The Miracles
  • “What’s Easy for Two is So Hard for One” – Mary Wells
  • “Dancing in the Streets” – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
  • “Ooo Baby Baby” – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
  • “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” – Marvin Gaye
  • “My Baby Loves Me” – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
  • “People Get Ready” – The Impressions
  • “Everybody Needs Love” – Gladys Knight & the Pips
  • “It’s the Same Old Song” – The Four Tops
  • “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” – Stevie Wonder
  • “Heaven Must Have Sent You” – The Elgins
  • “Reflections” – Diana Ross and the Supremes
  • “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” – Four Tops