Our Detroit sound research page lists places, both online and offline, to extend your research into Detroit’s rich musical histories.
Michigan Archival Association (associated with Society of American Archivists)
Michigan LGBTQ Remember by Tim Retzloff
A selected bibliography of Detroit and Detroit music, organized by topic and genre, to begin your deep dive into the legacy of our City’s musical heritage.
Selected Detroit Sound Bibliography
Boyd, Herb. A People’s History of Self-Determination. New York: Amistad Press, 2017.
Conot, Robert E. American Odyssey. New York: Morrow, 1974.
Dunbar, Willis F. and George S. May. Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State, 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.
Gavrilovich, Peter and Bill McGraw, editors. The Detroit Almanac: 300 Years of Life in the Motor City. Detroit: Detroit Free Press, 2000.
Georgakas, Dan and Marvin Surkin. Detroit, I Do Mind Dying : A Study in Urban Revolution. Updated ed, South End Press Classics ; 2. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 1998.
Mast, Robert H. Detroit Lives. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994.
Moon, Elaine Latzman. Untold Tales, Unsung Heroes: An Oral History of Detroit’s African American Community, 1918-1967. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994.
Poremba, David Lee, editor. Detroit in Its World Setting: A Three Hundred Year Chronology, 1701-2001. Detroit: Wayne State University, 2001.
Retzloff, Tim. “From Storage Box to Computer Screen: Disclosing Artifacts of Queer History in Michigan.” GLQ 7, no. 1 (2001): 153-181.
Sugrue, Thomas J. The Origins of the Urban Crisis Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996.
Thompson, Heather Ann. Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.
Architecture, Landmarks, and Preservation
Austin, Dan. Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins. Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2010.
Retzloff, Tim. “Historical Directory of Gay & Lesbian Bars in Metro Detroit,” self-published pamphlet, courtesy of author (2010).
Maki, Craig and Keith Cady. Detroit Country Music: Mountaineers, Cowboys, and Rockabillies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.
Dance Music including Detroit Club, House, and Techno Histories
Bailey, Marlon. Butch Queens Up in Pumps: Gender, Performance, and Ballroom Culture in Detroit. University of Michigan Press, 2013.
Dalphond, Denise. “Detroit Players: Wax, Tracks, and Soul in Electronic Music.” PhD diss., Indiana University, 2014.
Gholz, Carleton. “Where the Mix Is Perfect”: Voices from the Post-Motown Soundscape. University of Pittsburgh, 2011.
Mixon, Imani. “Detroit is Techno City, and techno is black,” Metro Times, May 23, 2018.
Sicko, Dan. Techno Rebels: The Renegades of Electronic Funk. 2nd ed. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2010.
Tausig, Ben. “Detroit Techno: Race, Agency, and Electronic Music in Post-Industrial Detroit.” Masters, University of Michigan, 2003.
Vecchiola, Carla. “Detroit’s Rhythmic Resistance: Electronic Music and Community Pride.” Dissertation, University of Michigan, 2006.
Pollard, Deborah Smith. When the Church Becomes Your Party: Contemporary Gospel Music. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2008.
Gholz, Carleton. “‘Welcome to Tha D.’: Making and Remaking Hip Hop Culture in Post-Motown Detroit.” In Represent Where I’m From: The Greenwood Guide to American Regional Hip Hop, edited by Mickey Hess: Greenwood Press, 2009.
Watkins, S. Craig. Hip Hop Matters : Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.
Mueller, Gavin. “Looking For the Perfect Beat: Rerouting A Hip-Hop Genealogy Through Electronic Dance Music.” 2006.
Blues, Jazz, Paradise Valley, and beyond
Bjorn, Lars with Jim Gallert. Before Motown: A History of Jazz in Detroit, 1920-1960. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2001.
Boyd, Herb and Leni Sinclair, editors. Detroit Jazz Who’s Who. Detroit: Jazz Research Institute, 1984.
Cohassey, John. Down on Hastings Street: A study of social and cultural changes in a Detroit community 1941-1955. Thesis (MA): Wayne State University, 1993.
Cohassey, John. Toast of the Town: The Life and Times of Sunnie Wilson. Wayne State University Press, 2005.
Motown / Rhythm & Blues / Soul
Edmonds, Ben. What’s Going On?: Marvin Gaye and the Last Days of the Motown Sound. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2002.
Smith, Suzanne E. Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Whitall, Susan. Women of Motown: An Oral History. New York: Avon Books, 1998.
Whitall, Susan. Fever: Little Willie John’s Fast Life, Mysterious Death and the Birth of Soul. Titan Books, 2011.
Carson, David. Rockin’ Down the Dial: The Detroit Sound of Radio. Royal Oak: Momentum Books, 1999.
Carson, David. Grit, Noise, & Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock ‘N’ Roll. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.
Rettman, Tony. Why Be Something You’re Not: Detroit Hardcore 1979-1985. Huntington Beach, Calif.: Revelation Records Publishing, 2010.
Schmitt, Jason M. “Like the Last 30 Years Never Happened: Understanding Detroit Rock Music Through Oral History.” Ph.D. dissertation. Bowling Green State University, 2008.
Sinclair, John. It’s All Good: A John Sinclair Reader. London: Headpress, 2008.
The Detroit Electronic Music Archive (DEMA) – See the E. Azalia Hackley Collection.
The E. Azalia Hackley Collection at the Detroit Public Library is a critical archive for all scholars of Detroit music. Founded in 1943, the Hackley is the African American performing arts archive for the city featuring material from the 19th century into the 21st century. As it is held within the Detroit Public Library, is attached to the library’s Music, Arts, and Literature Department, and, presently, administered through the Burton Historical Collection, it is by rights the most important stop for anyone studying the history of music in the city, especially Black contributions to it.
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Archives contains musical materials as well as materials on Detroit history as a whole. Some of these materials are searchable online through the museum’s Virtual Archives and some (but not all) of them have public finding aids available online. The CHWMAAH is important for Detroit musical history because of things like the Ed McKenzie Collection, the Mary and Haley Bell Collection, and the John Sinclair Jazz Collection.
The Walter P. Reuther Library is primarily dedicated to the history of American labor but any serious work on Detroit history must examine the Reuther’s collections.
Wayne State University does not yet have an archival special collection. However, they do have a strong graduate and undergraduate library. They also have an exhibit dedicated to Cass Corridor Artists at the undergrduate library.
Museums do not necessarily have accessible public archives. Please call ahead to see if the museum’s have materials available for research outside of their regular exhibits.
Khalid Hussein El-Hakim has created a Black History 101 Mobile Museum which includes numerous materials related to music, including Detroit hip hop.
International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Michigan Audio Heritage Soceity (MAHS) Museum
The Motown Museum or Hittsville USA offers exhibits dedicated to the history of Motown Records when it was in Detroit.
The Detroit Historical Society operates the Detroit Historical Museum due north of the Detroit Public Library.
Exhibit 3000 a techno exhibit kept up by Underground Resistance at its Submerge headquarters at 3000 East Grand Boulevard.
Detroit Music Societies
The American Music Research Foundation
The Detroit Techno Foundation created a Web site in 2010 that said, in part, that its mission was to “promote, develop and preserve Detroit’s electronic music and creative communities.”
Locally-Owned Record Stores
Music retailers are also great resources to learn and hear more about Detroit music.
Detroit Music Center (formerly Buy Rite)
Michigan Archives and Museums
Freeing John Sinclair Exhibit (2011)
Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan
The Labadie Collection focusses mainly on radical political collections but also contains significant Detroit historical materials and materials related to queer life in Detroit and Michigan.
Historical Society of Michigan
Eastern Michigan University’s Bruce T. Halle Library contains a Motown Records Archive.
National Archives and Museums
Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC) at the University of Indiana
National Historic Publications and Records Commission
Canadian Archives and Libraries
Windsor Public Library Archives
Les Sites De L’Institut National De L’Audiovisuel
Updated December 2020