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The 1967 Detroit Riot, also known as the Twelfth Street Riot or the Detroit Rebellion, was the worst American race riot of the 1960s. For five days during the Summer of Love Detroit burned. At the end 43 lay dead. In American history only the 1992 Los Angeles riot and the 1921 Tulsa riot were worse. It came less than a month after the Newark riot, which killed 25.

It took 17,000 armed men to put it down: the governor called in the National Guard and the president called in the army. Tanks rolled through the streets of Detroit.

  • Dates: July 23rd to 28th 1967
  • Deaths: 43 (33 black, 10 white)
  • Injured: 1189
  • Buildings destroyed: over 2,000
  • Property damage: $40 to $80 million (20 to 40 million crowns)

Part of what made the riot so bad was the heavy-handed approach of the Guardsmen. They shot a four-year-old girl dead, for example, when they saw her father’s lit cigarette in a darkened window.

How it started: At 12th and Clairmount on the West Side at three in the morning the police broke into an after-hours bar with a sledgehammer:  they found themselves in the middle of a party for two servicemen coming home from the Vietnam War. Now they had to arrest four times more people than expected.

It took an hour and a half to arrest everyone. In the meantime word spread and 200 onlookers gathered. One of them kept shouting at the police, “Motherfuckers! Leave my people alone!” Then people began to throw bottles and the police tried to get out fast. As the last police car pulled away the riot broke out.

Causes:

The main things that blacks in Detroit were unhappy about before the riot:

  1. Police brutality: This was the main cause given by the rioters themselves. The police force was nearly all white and nearly half were “extremely anti-Negro”. Because whites wanted the police to be “tough on crime” they refused to set up the civilian review board demanded by blacks. So the police were unaccountable: they beat people to death, shot a woman in the back, thought that ordinary women were prostitutes, called men “boy” and stopped people for no reason, arresting those who could not produce ID.
  2. Housing: The city tore down the heart of black Detroit to make way for Interstate 75 so that people from the suburbs (mainly white and middle-class) could get into the city more easily. It cut black Detroit in two. It not only destroyed businesses but a good share of what limited housing space was open to blacks, thereby worsening living conditions and making more of black Detroit into a slum.
  3. Employment: more than a sixth of black men were out of work – what whites would call hard times. The car makers were moving their plants out of the city and replacing men with machines.

After the riot the president set up the Kerner Commission, which found that America was:

moving toward two separate societies, one Black, one white –
separate and unequal.

It advised the government to pour money into helping blacks get better housing, education and employment opportunities.

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Remarks:

This is my favourite Anita Baker song.  Even when I first heard it it seemed like a song I had known for years. It only made it to #8 on the R&B chart.

At the very beginning of the video you can see Donnie Simpson, the host of “Video Soul” on BET in the 1980s and 1990s. The video shows scenes of Detroit.

Lyrics:

Flashbacks of the times we’ve had
Some made us laugh some made us sad
We used to break up to make up
All the fun that came from those love games
Oh well, I think I need someone new
Oh, it just won’t do, because I think about you baby

From beginning to end 365 days of the year
I want your same ole love
All I want to do is keep on loving you
I want your same ole love

There’s a reason I feel this way
All the things you do, well it might be the things that you say
Your love never changes
It’s like a picture in a frame, and it remains the same

Your undying love for me
Oh it keeps me strong, keeps me holding on

From beginning to end 365 days of the year
I want your same ole love
All I want to do is keep on loving you
I want your same ole love

Slowly, love me
All is forsaken, I love the love we’re making
Cause it’s truly lovely
I’ll never leave you, you’ll know I need you baby

From beginning to end 365 days of the year
I want your same ole love
All I want to do is keep on loving you
I want your same ole love

From beginning to end 365 days of the year
I want your same ole love
All I want to do is keep on loving you
I want your same ole love

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Remarks:

This song is so obscure that it has no lyrics online! And yet not so obscure that it is not on YouTube.

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Remarks:

I absolutely love the first 30 seconds of this song. The YouTube video above was taken from “Soul Train” on  May 12th 1973. That is why the lead singer does not look like Diana Ross – because Ross had been long gone by then!

Lyrics:

Now I wanna tell ya–of a great love–ohh
It will light up
It will surely light up–darkened worlds
If you just believe…

Stoned Love, Mmm..
Oh yeah
A love for each other will bring fighting to an end
Forgiving one another
Time after time doubt creeps in
But like the sun lights up the sky with a message from above
Oh yeah, I find no other greater symbol of love–

Yeah, don’t ya hear the wind blowing
MMmmhmm
Stoned Love
Oh yeah, I tell ya I ain’t got no other

Woo, woo, Mmmmh
Stoned Love
Aww yeah

Life is so short
Put the present time at hand
Aww yeah–and if you’re young at heart
Rise up and take your stand
And to the man
On whose shoulder
The world must depend
I pray for peace and love–Amen

Oooh–can’t ya feel it–mmm hmm
Stoned Love
I tell ya I ain’t got no other
Ahh haa
Stoned Love
Aww yeah

If the war ‘tween our nations passed–oh yeah
Will the love ‘tween our brothers and sisters last?
On and on and on and on and….

Stoned Love
Aw yeah–
I tell ya I ain’t got no other

Mmm hmm
Stoned Love

Can’t ya, can’t ya, can’t ya, can’t ya, can’t ya feel it
Woo, woo, mmm hmm
Stoned Love
Aw yeah stoned, stoned, stoned, stoned

Woo, woo, mmm hmm
Stoned Love
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Woo, woo, ah ha
Stoned Love
Aw yeah, yeah, ah, ah, ah

Woo, woo
Mmm hmm
Stoned Love

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You’ve given me a true love
And every day I thank you love
For a feeling that’s so new
So inviting, so exciting

Whenever you’re near
I hear a symphony
A tender melody
Pulling me closer
Closer to your arms

Then suddenly, I hear a symphony
Ooh, your lips are touching mine
A feeling so divine
till I leave the past behind
I’m lost in a world
Made for you and me

Whenever you’re near
I hear a symphony
Play sweet and tenderly
Every time your lips meet mine now baby

Baby, baby
You bring much joy within
Don’t let this feeling end
Let it go on and on and on
Now baby, baby
Those tears that seem my eyes
I cry not for myself
But for those who never felt the joy we felt

Whenever you’re near
I hear a symphony
Each time you speak to me
I hear a tender rhapsody of love now

Baby, baby
As you stand holding me
Whispering how much you care
A thousand violins fill the air

Now baby, baby

Don’t let this moment end
Keep standing close to me
Ooh, so close to me, baby, baby
Baby, baby
I hear a symphony
A tender melody

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David Ruffin (1941-1991) was an American R&B singer. He was the tenor and lead singer of The Temptations from 1964 to 1968. He is the lead singer of such hit songs as:

  • 1964: My Girl
  • 1966: I’m Losing You
  • 1967: I Wish it Would Rain
  • 1968: Ain’t Too Proud to Beg
  • 1969: My Whole World Ended
  • 1975: Walk Away From Love

He did all of them on the Motown record label and all but the last two with the Temptations.

He had a rough voice and wore glasses with thick, dark rims, which became something of a trademark for him. He used to go with Tammi Terrell, the one who sang so many songs with Marvin Gaye.

He was fired from the Temptations in 1968. His cocaine habit made it hard for him to show up to work on time and he became so full of himself that he would refuse to ride in the bus with the others and wanted the Temptations to be named “David Ruffin and the Temptations”. Not only was he hard to work with, but he also asked uncomfortable questions about where all the money was going. Dennis Edwards took his place.

In the 1970s he sang on his own, but still for Motown since he was under contract to them. He had some hits, but his cocaine habit and the lack of support from Motown made it hard.

He left Motown in 1977 and continued to record and perform right up to the end of his life. In the 1980s he performed again with the Temptations and then separately with Eddie Kendricks, also a one-time singer of the Temptations, and later with both Kendricks and Dennis Edwards.

At Live Aid in 1985 he performed with Eddie Kendricks and two fans named Hall & Oates. Although a hero to Daryl Hall, Hall had little patience for Ruffin’s drug habit.

It was crack cocaine that killed Ruffin in the end, at age 50.

Ruffin was born in Whynot, Mississippi, not far from Meridian. He never knew his mother: she died when he was still a baby. He was the son of a strict Baptist minister, growing up singing gospel music. In 1955 at age 14 he left home and headed for Memphis. There he joined the gospel scene. He knew the Staple Singers and the Womack brothers. Ruffin himself became part of Dixie Nightingales – not to be confused with the much more famous Dixie Hummingbirds.

Two years later he moved on and came to Detroit, where his brother Jimmy was a singer. There Ruffin started singing for a record label owned by a sister of Berry Gordy. It would later become part of Motown.

In 1964 he joined the Temptations: their tenor had just been fired and Ruffin was a good performer on stage, so they hired him.

At first he was meant to be a backing singer with Eddie Kendricks as lead, but then in 1964 Smokey Robinson wrote a song just for his voice: “My Girl”. It was a huge hit and the rest is history.

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That is a picture of one of the most famous factories in history. It used to produce a thousand Model Ts a day. You can see it and the other fabulous ruins of Detroit at detroityes.com.

See also:

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