Don't say that I never finish anything! I started this series on Forbes 20 most miserable US cities and the music that spawns from these cities back in March. Then life got into the way of my blogging, other things came up, and I didn't finish the list. And now that we are 3/4 of the way through 2010, the list may be irrelevant. But anyway, to refresh your memory, here are the first 16 of Forbes 20 most miserable US cities:
20. Philadelphia, PA
19. Gary, IN
18. Youngstown, OH
17. Sacramento, CA
16. New York, NY
15. Toledo, OH
14. Rockford, IL
13. Kansas City, MO
12. Akron, OH
11. Modesto, CA
10. Chicago, IL
9. Canton, OH
8. Buffalo, NY
7. St. Louis, MO
6. Miami, FL
5. Flint, MI
Numbers 4 and 3 on the Forbes list are epic, not only in their misery, but also in their music!
The Motor City. Population 900,000, with a metro area of roughly 5 million. City population has declined every census since 1950. In 2008, thousands of homes were available for less than $10,000. 14.4% unemployment as of July 28, 2010, largely due to the downturn of the automotive industry. According to a 2008 Forbes study, Detroit has the second worst commute time in the US, and only 11% of the commutes walk, bike, carpool, or take public transit, the worst of any city in the US. My brother lives in the Detroit area and he has a two hour commute round-trip every day. According to a 2008 FBI study (which was released in Sept. '09, the 2009 data will be release in fall of '10. Why is the government so freaking slow?), Detroit ranked fourth nationally in total violet crime, third in murder, second in aggravated assault, second in motor vehicle theft, and fourth in arson. The sports team? Exhibit A: The Detroit Lions, who in 2008 were the first team in NFL history to go 0-16. In 2009 they were 2-14. Although the Red Wings usually make the playoffs and give Detroit its second nickname of "Hockeytown." Both the MLB Tigers and NBA Pistons can be hit or miss. In terms of corruption of public officials, just look up Kwame Kilpatrick and the Kilpatrick and Beatty text-messaging scandal. And the weather in Detroit? Similar to Chicago or Toledo: cold and crappy in the winter, with humid as hell summers.
All of this misery notwithstanding, I have family in the Detroit area, and I have met many friendly, upstanding people in and around the Detroit area. And I have partied my ass of in that city. Great times!
Jeez, where do I start with Detroit music? There's this little thing called Motown (combination of Motor and Town), launching the careers of dozens of artists, while having a pivotal role in integrating popular music. From 1961 to 1971, Motown had 110 Top 10 hits, before relocating to Los Angeles. Aretha Franklin, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, Ted Nugget, Alice Cooper, Bob Seger, Glen Frey, Madonna, The White Stripes, Kid Rock, Eminem, tons of jazz musicians, and a bunch of others that I am leaving out.
Although Parliament is originally from New Jersey, they got their break via George Clinton's job as a staff songwriter for Motown records.
Parliament - Do That Stuff.mp3
Buy: Clones of Dr. Funkenstein (orig. 1976)
I have to add a White Stripes track, since the White Stripes that we know and love may never be together again.
The White Stripes - Jumble, Jumble.mp3
Buy: De Stijl (2002)
Named for the ancient capitol of Egypt. Population of around 670,000 with a metro area of 1.3 million. Unemployment rate of 10.4% as of June (US national rate is 9.5%). Memphis ranks just below Detroit in having the third worst violent crime rate in the country (the first being St. Louis, #7 on the Forbes misery list, and second is Oakland, CA, which didn't make the Forbes list. WTF?). Memphis also ranks fifth worst in rape and robbery, third in aggregated assault, second in total property crime, first in burglary, and third in larceny. About 17.2% of families and 20.6% of the population lives below the poverty line, including 30.1% of those under age 18 and 15.4% of those age 65 or over. Memphis only has one professional sports team, the NBA Grizzlies, who are consistently mediocre. And recently the University of Memphis mens basketball team had to default its entire 2007-2008 season, after placing second in the national tournament, due to invalid SAT scores from its star player. In terms of political corruption, just read up on Operation Tennessee Waltz, a sting operation where five Memphis politicians gut busted for bribery. You know its bad when someone made up commemorative t-shirts and mugs.
And where to start with Memphis music? How about Sun records which gave Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, and Roy Orbison their first recording contacts. Satellite/Stax records was a major player in early soul gospel, funk, jazz, and blues recordings, promoting artists such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the MG's, Wilson Pickett, and many, many others. Alex Chilton and his band Big Star are from Memphis, as is pop star Justin Timberlake. Tina Turner is from tiny Nutbush, TN, about 50 miles outside of Memphis.
Here are two examples of Memphis music, one classic, and one soon to be classic. First we have soul and gospel legends Sam and Dave, follow by one of my favorite alt country bands Lucero.
Sam and Dave - I Thank You.mp3 (composed by Isaac Hayes)
Buy: Very Best of Sam & Dave (2009, song orig. 1968)
Lucero - Slow Dancing.mp3
Buy: Tennessee (2002)