David Byrne Does Detroit: "Don't Forget The Motor City"

Illustration for article titled David Byrne Does Detroit: Dont Forget The Motor City

Musician David Byrne recently spent a week cruising around Detroit working on a movie for his experiment making music inside the abandoned Michigan Theatre. His take: The city can revive, but not by building cars.


Byrne's lengthy journal entry runs through much of Detroit's 20th century of trouble, from its race riots to its surplus of abandoned high-rise buildings. He questions the General Motors bankruptcy, the SUV boom, and says GM's Renaissance Center headquarters look like a set from the dystopian '70s sci-fi flick Logan's Run, "except that GM execs aren't terminated when they reach 30."

The domination of the city by one industry, the riots, the nearsightedness and collapse of the car companies and now the financial crisis-all contributed to what one sees here. But this city is not alone. It's just more iconic and extreme in what's happened to it. On my last tour we saw acres of abandoned warehouses in downtown St Louis and much of the main street in central Cleveland is boarded up.


His prescription: Detroit could come back if it focused on culture more than commerce — and shrunk itself to a survivable core. [David Byrne's Journal]

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Jonathan Harper

I flew through Detroit over the weekend.

From the air the situation is obvious...with tons of planned neighborhoods plotted out with concrete slabs where each house was supposed to go, but no houses.

Pretty depressing.