This ain't Detroit. But so what. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.'s new video for its nearly two-year-old Gil Scott-Heron redux, "We Almost Lost Detroit," released today via Stereogum, pays cool enough homage to the Motor City, aka Motown, that it's worth a peek.
Of course, the original song, released on Scott-Heron's 1977 album Bridges, dealt with the partial meltdown of the nuclear reactor Fermi 1 way back in 1966. But with the American auto industry gasping for air over the past couple of decades, a corrupt mayor unseated during the last decade, and pre-recession unemployment/crime rates that would make Atlantans STFU and count their blessings, Detroit's long since had a sucky reputation. Yet there's something redemptive about this video, peopled with regular citizens doing the do, as members Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott put it on this here blog:
... The spirit of the song that always rang out to us was that it didn't seem to be about simply pointing out what had gone wrong. The message seemingly was one of progress. About setting things right. Coming together as people and moving forward. As Gil would say many years later in concert, the song is about realizing that "somebody's always got to be on the job... because there's always a job out there to do".
So we wanted this video to be about people DOING things in and around the city of Detroit. People who are on the job. People who have moved past "what happened?" and are spending more time saying "lets MAKE things happen". These are the people who we feel represent the city of Detroit.
Which sorta makes me think about the life cycle of cities, especially those with strong musical identities that often keep them tethered to former glory — from Detroit (soul) to Memphis (blues), Kansas City (jazz) to Seattle (grunge). Atlanta's probably more comparable to a Nashville than a Detroit, but if ever our music scene becomes a shell of its former self and the rest of the city's goes to hell in a handbasket — whether it's three years or 30 from now — hopefully someone will have the decency to pull an Izzy out of his hat, dust off the felt and help us rekindle our sense of hometown pride.
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