The Prince Tribute is complete, for now. That's what I've been spending a good chunk of my free time on the last few weeks, and I am starting to get a little burned out on writing. Even so, the reason I made this website in the first place was to write a guide to Movement festival in Detroit and I am still going to do that. As I have shifted the focus of my writing from Minneapolis to Detroit, I have been thinking a lot about the connection between the two cities, and I wanted to write about it before going full on Detroit.
Within the first few hours of being in Detroit during my first visit in 2011, I noticed that the people were pretty warm and friendly, they reminded me of people in Minneapolis. Though the landscape is very different, that alone made it feel close to home. The real connection, though, is through music. I don't think it's any stretch to say Detroit and Minneapolis are the two funkiest cities in America.
Over the past few years, I have dug deep into the history of techno in Detroit. I've read books, watched documentaries, and read up even more on the internet. A common thread running through Detroit techno's history is a radio DJ named The Electrifying Mojo (note: you seriously ought to check out that link). He had a several hours long show each night and he would do whatever the hell he wanted. Sometimes he would play full albums all the way through. He would play whatever he felt like playing and he was one of Detroit's key taste makers in the late 70s and early 80s.
The show's connection to funk was strong (one segment of the show was called Midnight Funk Association), but he also went in some not so obvious directions bringing bands like Kraftwerk and the B-52s to the masses in Detroit. He also was the first adopter of techno music and was responsible for bringing the very first techno tracks, like Cybotron's "Alleys Of Your Mind", Inner City's "Good Life" and Derrick May's "Strings of Life" to Detroit in the mid 80s. The young techno pioneers looked up to him and eventually they were supplying him with 30 minute mixes to be played on his show. But none of this has anything to do with Minneapolis.
Before Prince ever made it huge in Minneapolis (or anywhere else for that matter), he was a star in Detroit. That was thanks to Mojo, who was an early champion. Prince was heavily featured on his shows, he played everything including rarities and b-sides, on occasion albums all the way through, and it was not unheard of for him to play nothing but Prince for several hours straight.
Below is an interview Mojo did with Prince, right after he played a show in Detroit on his 28th birthday. Prince was clearly very comfortable with Mojo, and this is is one of the better Prince interviews I've ever heard. It's worth your 15 minutes, trust me.
If you don't believe me that Prince was big in Detroit before Minneapolis, just look at the tour dates from the Purple Rain Tour , which started with 7 straight nights at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. A month and a half later they played 5 nights at the St. Paul Civic Center. Need I say more?
Before Prince died I had been digging deeper in to Minneapolis funk. I got the Purple Snow compilation from Numero Group and a 94 East album. Since he died, I have realized just how much of an impact Prince had on some of my favorite musicians from Detroit (and plenty of other places, for that matter). I don't think any city in this country can match the overall output of Detroit when it comes to music, but Minneapolis has a similar spirit.
Just like Prince, I consider Detroit my home away from home, and I am getting very excited for my annual pilgrimage next week! I plan on making the Minneapolis - Detroit bond tighter, even if it's just a little.