Mitch Ryder & The Ann Arbor Heat


By noon today, it was so hot and humid outside that I was sweating in the shade. But outside I went, because an opportunity had been dropped right in my lap. The street outside my workplace was closed down for a free lunch concert by the legendary Detroit rocker Mitch Ryder, and my coworkers were just going to have to deal with the downside of a shared workspace.

Growing up, I listened to a lot of 60s rock. That’s what my brother listened to, and I always followed his lead. To this day I have no idea where he picked up the taste. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who — we devoured any British Invasion music we could find. Inevitably this lead us to “discover” their influences like B.B. King, Bo Diddley, and Chuck Berry. We became hooked on music, and although our tastes have diverged we’re both continuing to venture into new musical territory.

Somewhere in our teenaged mutual explorations we stumbled on Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. It was my white-bread entry into the wonders of soul music. Ryder’s throaty wail soared over driving rhythms and opened up new pathways in my brain. By the time I could see “The Blues Brothers” I’d been fully prepared to appreciate Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, because recordings from this white kid from Detroit had made it to my white suburb of Bay City.

So yeah, today I got a chance to hear a singer who’d opened my ears to a purely American sound. And although his body can no longer display his energy, his voice can still blow out speakers. For an hour I was a teen again, letting the sound move me. Or at least move my toes; it was way too hot to move anything more.

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