Saturday, July 31, 2010

Michigan Musicians

My family is wrapping up our annual week in Michigan. We’ll leave tomorrow and drive the four or so hours back to the Chicago suburbs. We stay on a beautiful little lake about halfway up the Lake Michigan side of the state. It’s interesting because there are two very distinctly different types of people around here: visitors (and I include “transplants”- retirees, etc. in this category) and locals. The visitors are people like us, those who come in for a week or a long weekend during the summer, shop in the cute little stores in town, eat ice cream and go home. You need only drive a short distance away from our lake to see how the locals live differently than we do; Michigan is notoriously poor in many of its rural areas, and the idyllic shoreline doesn’t represent the majority of the areas where people live. Around here, people’s dogs live outside, roadkill doesn’t get picked up and the little general store on our lake sells enormous quantities of beer, chewing tobacco, candy cigarettes and the Amish sell their baked goods outside by the gas pumps. Where else can you find all that in one place?

This week provided my oldest daughter and me the opportunity to see a few different areas of the state as we visited a couple prospective colleges. We also had family from Denver staying across our little lake, and they gave us an appreciation for the “green” that Michigan offers. With my new awareness of Michigan in general and not just my tunnel vision to our little lake, I decided to investigate the music that has originated here. Of course, the obvious music from Michigan is Detroit’s Motown sound, but really Detroit isn’t representative of the rest of the state, just as Chicago and its suburbs feel like they’re completely separate from anything south of I-80. Unfortunately, I discovered that most Michigan music has come from either Detroit or its surrounding areas. Some family members expressed apprehension that trying to compile anything related to Michigan musicians would result is quite a bit of Ted Nugent music, he being the famously fanatical bow-and-arrow hunter who keeps the deer population in check (although I discovered that he now lives in Waco, Texas). What I found is that the musicians from Michigan seem to be as diverse as I would expect based on the population right here in our own little portion of the state. Here is a sampling of what I found along with some recommended songs:

Al Green – Al spent a good part of his childhood in Grand Rapids. Let’s Stay Together remains one of my favorite R&B songs.

Stevie Wonder (a.k.a. Stevland Hardaway Judkins- huh???) – Hmm, no Stevie Wonder on my iPod, but I do like My Cherie Amour.

Eminem (a.k.a. Marshall Mathers, a.k.a. Slim Shady) – I am actually a fan of Eminem, which is funny since my teenagers can kind of take him or leave him. We all like his current hit, Not Afraid, but I also like Lose Yourself a lot.

Kid Rock (a.k.a. Robert James Richie) – I kind of like that these guys who make it big stick close to their original roots. My favorite from K.R., aside from All Summer Long, which could be summer Michigan’s anthem, is Wasting Time.

Madonna (real name!) – I think our fancy jet-setting gal likes us to forget that she was born and raised in Bay City and attended the University of Michigan before fleeing the state for good. I must admit that I do not currently have any Madonna on my iPod, but I was with her as a young high schooler during her maiden albums.

Ted Nugent – Okay, here we go. I did not realize (until I read on Wikipedia) that Ted Nugent actually lived in Palatine as a teen- whoa! However, he was born in Detroit and later in his life moved back to Michigan. Cat Scratch Fever, anyone?

Bob Seger – Raised in Ann Arbor, a regular place! Not a huge fan, but I do respect his work and accomplishments.

Uncle Kracker (a.k.a. Matthew Shafer) – I know, I was also surprised to find that his real name wasn’t “Uncle Kracker.” I actually like the ubiquitous Smile song. He’s from Harrison Township, which isn’t far from Detroit (of course).

The White Stripes – This is the Jack White duo, formed in Detroit. I like Icky Thump, but be warned that all White Stripes is pretty “rough.”

Sufjan Stevens – You may never have heard of Sufjan, but he had a great song, Chicago, on the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, which made him a bit more mainstream as his roots are more indie. He announced a project whereby he would record an album based on each of the 50 states. Thus, his first album was entitled Michigan, and his second was Illinois. After completing two of the 50 states, he seems to have stalled and has since claimed he was joking about the project.

Yes Michigan!

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