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Motown Matrix: Race, Gender and Class Identity in "The Sound of Young America"

Semester and Year WI 2017
Course Number IDSEM-UG1542
Section 001
Instructor Michael Dinwiddie
Time 10:00 AM - 1:15 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM



In the 1960s Motown Records emerged as a dominant force in American popular music. Billing itself as “The Sound of Young America,” Motown established a lyrical and musical discourse through its records and albums that struck a responsive chord with white and black listeners alike. In this seminar we examine the race, gender and class identity that is inherent in—and emerges from—“The Motown Sound.” How did this company exploit the nationalist pride in the African American community while simultaneously positioning itself as a “crossover” enterprise to whites? What models of business and community did Motown emulate and create? And how did Motown affect the politics and racial discourse of its listeners? Our exploration situates Motown in the Detroit community of the 1950s and 1960s, to understand how it was “imagined,” and its impact on the wider culture. Readings may include excerpts from  The Origins of the Urban Crisis  by Thomas Sugrue;  One Nation Under a Groove  by Gerald Early;  Where Did Our Love Go?  by Nelson George;  American Odyssey  by Robert Conot;  Dancing in the Street  by Suzanne E. Smith;  Just My Soul Responding  by Brian Ward, and  Detroit: I Do Mind Dying  by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin. The lyrics of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Holland-Dozier-Holland as well as such films as  Standing in the Shadows of Motown  and  Dream Girls  may be included.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)