Stuart Cosgrove: Detroit '67 – The Year That Changed Soul

Big daddy of soul books tells an epic tale.

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The riot that tore Detroit apart in 1967 was one of the worst in US history. Over 12 month-by-month chapters, the author – a TV executive and northern soul fanatic – weaves a thoroughly researched, epic tale of musical intrigues and escalating social violence.

Taking as its main thread Berry Gordy’s Motown empire (in particular its most successful act, The Supremes) it explores all the avenues and offshoots that linked the city’s music community and the civil rights movement. For instance, he claims here that the origin of the term ‘blockbuster’ was when a black musician had a hit big enough for them to buy their way into a whites-only residential block. All sorts of unlikely connections are unearthed, such as the link between BB King and the sacked Supreme Florence Ballard. This is the literary equivalent of Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone – in other words, magnificent.

Claudia Elliott is a music writer and sub-editor. She has freelanced for BBC Radio 2's Sounds of the 60s, Uncut, History of Rock, Classic Rock and The Blues magazine. She is a 1960s music specialist.