I was born in Detroit, I still love the city and I have fond memories of growing up in a place where Motown Records was established.
In April, as I drove past Motown Records which is now a world-renowned museum, I flashed back to the late 1960s where I grew up in Detroit with the children of Levi Stubbs, the charismatic lead singer of The Four Tops.
Stubbs’ study inside his home was adorned with awards and photographs on the walls with some of the world’s greatest entertainers. Raymond and I would often walk into the house on a break from biking to hear Stubbs taking a phone call from fellow Tops, or members of The Temptations, or perhaps even Motown founder Berry Gordy.
In a tight-knit black community of well-manicured lawns on the east side of town, Stubbs would sometimes step into the street and shout “Go Long!,” toss a perfectly tight spiral high into the air and wait for his son, Raymond, and I to rush down the block to catch a football from the legendary crooner, whose raspy, throaty voice and soulful interpretation of songs helped define and shape American music.
On hot summer nights with the windows open to circulate the hot air, I could often hear the soothing sounds of The Four Tops on the record player next door while his children sang the parts of background singers — hits like “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” and “Bernadette.”
And even though we were young, Stubbs made sure we saw The Four Tops perform when they played in Detroit at popular nightclubs like The 20 Grand, one of Detroit’s most prominent nightspots, where sensational Motown groups like The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson, The Miracles and The Spinners would also appear.
That was a vibrant Detroit in the 1960s where downtown was bustling. Today, Woodward Avenue, one of the city’s most historic corridors, has lost its luster and boarded-up buildings stretch for blocks.
It will take years – and perhaps decades — for Detroit to return to its former glory, but for now, it seems blatantly irresponsible and borderline criminal that Orr would spend $400 million on a hockey arena instead of immediately investing in people who need jobs, kids who need schools and city workers who need their pensions.