One of the worst riots in American history began on July 23, 1967, at the corner of 12th Street and Clairmount on the west side of Detroit. At the time I was a one-year-old baby living on the east side of Detroit. Luckily for my family, the riot never made it across town.
Caused by racial tensions, the "disturbance" lasted four days. Before it was over, National Guard tanks were rolling down the city streets, thousands of buildings were burned to the ground, and 43 people lost their lives. Read about it at here.
Detroit has never fully recovered. White flight to the suburbs increased dramatically after the riot. I have a friend whose family sold their house in Detroit for $1.00. We were renting at the time and it wasn't long before my family had moved out too. Metropolitan Detroit is now the most segregated population center in the United States.
There are at least two pop songs about the so-called 12th Street Riot:
Motor City Is Burning was recorded by both Detroit-based bluesman John Lee Hooker and Detroit-based punk-rockers MC5.
John Lee Hooker: The Motor City Is Burning [purchase]
MC5: Motor City Is Burning [purchase]
Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot (who has recorded a number of “history” songs) wrote Black Day in July in which he recounts the story of the riot in journalistic fashion.
Gordon Lightfoot: Black Day In July [purchase]
Black Day In July was released in 1968 and banned from airplay after the Martin Luther King assassination. In this interview, Lightfoot talks about reaction to the song.
A third song that is, at least, indirectly based on the 12th Street Riot is Panic In Detroit, which David Bowie wrote based on his conversations with friend, and Detroit rocker, Iggy Pop. Local legend has it that the song is about the riots, but I’m not 100% sure about that one.
David Bowie: Panic In Detroit [purchase]
In a Vegetable Way
7 hours ago