Technologies of Gospel

Circuits and Networks of Sacred/Secular Innovation

Good God, Y’all, It’s Trajectories and Paths of Motown

If anybody following me on Spotify is wondering why everyone from Van Halen to Frankie Valli to Edwin Starr to Lene Lovich to the Red Hot Chili Peppers keep showing up in my friend feed,

it’s because it’s a new school year, which means the brain starts working again.

This is an old habit with me. School season, theatre season…you don’t have to be religious or even spiritual to appreciate our culture’s secular liturgical calendars.

This semester’s topic will be Motown and its far….FAR reaching influneces. In preparation for Technologies of Gospel’s Motown series, I’ve prepared a Reading Room reading list for you.

Dennis Coffey’s Gibson Firebird used in Motown sessions

Tamla, Motown, Gordy, Rare Earth, MoWest, Soul, VIP, Jobete, Black Forum…Divinity

“Let’s Get It On”
“Calling Out Around the World”
“Dancing in the Street”
“Ready for a Brand New Beat”

…there’s a reason why Motown songs and their titles make for fabulous before-the-colon book titles, as well.

It’s related to why the top singing groups in the world also happen to be African American artists trained in the literary art of message-propagation (evangelism).

These are folks who have been prepped since about the age of 3 to disseminate a communication, in vernacular terms that the most people possible at the most opportune moments will receive it.

In the tech industry, we call this “networking”.

Ray Charles (Baptist) and Billy Preston (Baptist) performing the hit that launched Motown artist Edwin Starr’s career

Here’s a selection of texts used for the series

Abbott, Kingsley, and Martha Reeves. Callin’ Out Around the World: A Motown Reader. London: Helter Skelter, 2001. Print.

Brewster, Bill, and Frank Broughton. Last Night a Dj Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey. New York: Grove Press, 2014. Print.

Carpenter, Bill, Edwin Hawkins, and Mavis Staples. Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005. Print.

Garofalo, Reebee. Rockin’ Out: Popular Music in the USA. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. Print.

George, Nelson. Where Did Our Love Go?: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986. Print.

James, Rick, and David Ritz. Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James. New York: Atria Books, 2014. Print.

Kurlansky, Mark. Ready for a Brand New Beat: How “dancing in the Street” Became the Anthem for a Changing America. New York, N.Y: Riverhaed, 2013. Print.

Lauterbach, Preston. The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll. 2011. Print.

Meier, August, and Elliott M. Rudwick. Black Detroit and the Rise of the Uaw: [United Auto Workers]. New York: Oxford university press, 1979. Print.

Merlis, Bob, and Davin Seay. Heart & Soul: A Celebration of Black Music Style in America, 1930-1975. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1997. Print.

Smith, Suzanne E. Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2000. Print.

Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans: A History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1983. Print.

Ugwu, Catherine. Let’s Get It on: The Politics of Black Performance. Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1995. Print.

Wallace, Michele. Black Popular Culture: A Project. Seattle: Bay Press, 1992. Print.


A. Philip Randolph Institute
Motown Museum
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Sounding Out
Vintage Black Glamour

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