The Motor City. Motown. Home of Henry Ford, Iggy Pop and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns.
Few cities in America have a richer legacy than Detroit. An industrial powerhouse in the 19th century as the center of Michigan’s lumber industry, Detroit reached even greater heights in the 20th century as it became synonymous with automobiles.
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- Fun fact: The French word “détroit” means “straits.”
- “Heart Soul Detroit”
Now 50 Detroit legends are telling their stories, in their own words, in “Heart Soul Detroit,” a beautiful collection of photos by Jenny Risher, with interviews edited by Matt Lee. The journalist pair, both Detroit natives, met at the city’s Hour magazine, and collaborated on this richly textured piece.
If there’s one theme that runs through these noteworthy lives, Lee said, it’s a fierce determination to break new ground.
“The legacy of the city is one of independence,” Lee said. “Detroit has sort of a defiance; it’s very self-sufficient, independent, do-it-yourself. That’s just in the culture of the entire area. If you look at the things that came out of the city, it’s incredible.”
The book started as a collection of photographs by Risher, but after a few sessions she realized that the stories from her subjects were too good to pass up. So Lee loosely edited a mountain of interview transcripts, allowing each personality to tell their story in their own words. Risher said most of her famous subjects showed unexpected sides of themselves.
“I was surprised by Iggy Pop and his extensive knowledge of Motown music and its roots,” she said. “He knew all about Berry Gordy, all the Smokey Robinson songs. It didn’t occur to me at the time how Motown influenced him as an artist and how the music scene is all connected.”
“And Ted Nugent was very sensitive!”
The pair worked for three years on the book, and Risher said there’s a tremendous feeling of pride simply to have completed such a project: “Artists have so many projects that are open-ended,” she said. “We set a goal and we did it.”
The city’s current struggles have been widely told, but it’s never been smart to bet against Detroit.
“The city motto [Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus] was written almost 200 years ago,” Lee said. “It says, ‘We hope for better things; it shall rise from the ashes.’ That was written after a fire. But it really resonates today.”