The Sound of Detroit: 10 Incredible Black Singers From Detroit, MI


Detroit, the Motor City, has long been known as a vibrant center of music and culture.

From the early days of Motown to the contemporary R&B and hip-hop scenes, Detroit has produced countless talented musicians and singers. Among them, many black singers have made an indelible mark on music history. From the smooth and soulful sounds of The Four Tops and Aretha Franklin to the powerful and emotive voices of Anita Baker and Fred Hammond, these artists have left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire generations. This article will take you on a journey through the rich history of black singers from Detroit, highlighting 10 of the most influential and iconic voices of the Motor City.

Aretha Franklin

CIRCA 1968: Soul singer Aretha Franklin performs onstage in circa 1968. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin, started out singing gospel at her father’s New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where he was a well-known preacher. She made numerous albums while still a youngster for local labels, and by the time she was in her late teens, Detroit had come to regard her as a gospel performer.

With Columbia Records, she secured her first big label deal the following year. Over the course of the next six years, she released a number of albums and singles, but despite a few scattershot modest hits, she failed to find the economic success she had hoped for. Her career didn’t truly take off until she transferred to Atlantic Records in 1967.

Franklin created a number of successful songs that helped define the sound of soul music, including “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” and “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” with the assistance of Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler and producer Arif Mardin. She went on to become one of her generation’s most popular and successful vocalists.

A lifetime achievement award was given to Franklin in 1994, and she has garnered a number of other awards during the course of her career, including 18 Grammy Awards. In addition to being honored in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame, she was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Franklin was a renowned actress and civil rights advocate in addition to her other professions. She sang her music at several civil rights-related events, including the 1968 funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. She also made many film and television appearances.

Aretha passed away from pancreatic cancer on August 16, 2018, when she was 76 years old. Her contributions to music and culture were honored worldwide, and many people lamented her passing. She is still regarded as one of the most important and revered vocalists in the history of popular music.

Stevie Wonder

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 04: Musician Stevie Wonder speaks onstage at the Mary Wilson tribute at The GRAMMY Museum on March 04, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Detroit, Michigan native Stevie Wonder is a widely respected musician, singer, and composer. He began his career as a young prodigy in the 1960s, and at age 11, he signed with Motown Records. With successes like “Fingertips (Part 2)” and “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” in the middle of the 1960s, he soon rose to recognition and achieved success.

Wonder has had several popular songs during his career, including “Superstition,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” “Living for the City,” and many others in the genres of pop, rock, R&B, and soul. He has been regarded as one of the most significant characters in popular music since he has been among the most popular and influential performers of recent years.

Wonder is renowned for his social and political involvement in addition to his musical successes. Throughout his career, he has fought for a number of issues, including civil rights, education, and disability rights. He has also actively supported a range of political causes and politicians, and he has played at key events like the Martin Luther King Jr. march in the 1980s and many more.

He has received various distinctions and prizes, including 25 Grammy Awards and many more. He was admitted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, respectively.

In summary, Stevie Wonder is an artist that continues to inspire people via his music as well as through his activism and contributions to society. He is still alive and actively making music and performing.

Diana Ross

MONTE CARLO, MONACO – JULY 27: Singer Diana Ross performs on stage during the Red Cross ball on July 27, 2007 in Monte Carlo, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Diana Ross is a Detroit, Michigan-born American singer, actress, and record producer. She was born in the city on March 26, 1944, and raised there in a working-class household. She started singing professionally as a youngster in a neighborhood gospel chorus. Early singing experiences were crucial in helping her hone her vocal abilities and stage presence.

Together with three other young ladies, Ross founded the Primettes, a singing group, at the beginning of the 1960s. With Ross as its main vocalist, the group eventually changed its name to The Supremes. The trio immediately became well-known in the 1960s thanks to a succession of top albums and hit singles after signing with Motown Records in 1961.

Ross chose to launch a solo career in 1970 and joined Motown Records. She produced a number of successful songs, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “I’m Coming Out,” and “Endless Love.” She enjoyed enormous success with her solo career, having a lot of popular songs and albums. She had a successful acting career as well, appearing in several movies, TV series, and Broadway musicals.

Ross has won various honors and awards throughout her career. She got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1980, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and many other honors. In 2007, she was also given the Kennedy Center Honors.

Ross has a background in music and acting, but she is also a humanitarian, activist, and philanthropist. She has participated in a number of charitable organizations and has supported a number of issues, including civil rights, education, and health.

Diana Ross is a musician who has had a significant influence on the music business. In addition to being a musician, she is also an actor, philanthropist, and humanitarian. She is still alive and is working now.

Smokey Robinson

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 10: Smokey Robinson performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Detroit, Michigan native Smokey Robinson is a singer, songwriter, and record producer. He co-founded the singing group The Miracles in the 1950s and is best known as its lead vocalist. He penned many of the group’s songs on his own and collaborated on the writing of others.

The Miracles, who had hit songs like “The Tracks of My Tears,” “I Second That Emotion,” “Shop Around,” and many more were among the most popular bands of the decade. As one of the most significant and influential vocal groups of the 1960s and early 1970s, they paved the way for subsequent generations of musicians by influencing the sound of popular music.

With the release of popular songs like “Cruisin,” “Being with You,” “Just to See Her,” and many more, Robinson also enjoyed success in his solo career. He has received several prizes, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and has sold more than 110 million recordings worldwide.

Robinson is regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time and one of the most important people in the history of popular music. His timeless masterpieces include “My Girl,” “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” and “Get Ready,” among many more. He is renowned for his ability to write catchy, memorable melodies as well as for his silky, soulful vocal delivery.

Robinson is renowned for his work as a record producer as well as for mentoring and counseling several other musicians. Both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame have inducted him, both individually and with The Miracles.

He is still alive and well today, and he is still a significant player in the music industry.

Marvin Gaye

LONDON – 1964: R&B singer Marvin Gaye holds court at a press conference at Heathrow Airport in circa 1964 as he arrives in London, England. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Marvin Gaye, a singer, songwriter, and musician from Washington, D.C., started his career in the 1960s as a session drummer at Motown Records. However, because of his association with the renowned label Motown, which was situated in Detroit, he is regarded as a Detroit artist. The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, his debut solo record, was published in 1961, but it wasn’t until the early 1970s that he saw significant commercial success.

He produced a number of popular albums and hit singles over his career, including “What’s Going On,” which is regarded as one of the best albums of all time. He also put out popular tunes including “Sexual Healing” and “Let’s Get It On.”

He was renowned for his politically and socially sensitive lyrics, as well as for his deep and passionate singing style. I Heard It Through The Grapevine and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” were only two of his other popular tunes.

Marvin Gaye’s career was cut short when, during an incident at his Los Angeles, California, home on April 1, 1984, his own father shot him. Marvin Gaye’s passing was deeply lamented, and admirers continue to appreciate and celebrate his music today all across the world. His songs continue to be regarded as some of the most significant and influential in the history of popular music. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.


American singer and actress Aaliyah (1979-2001) attends a press conference as Lifebeat’s Counter AID announces its third annual fund-raiser, in Los Angeles, California, November 1994. The Counter AID project raises money for people living with HIV and AIDS. (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

American singer, actress, and model Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born in Detroit, Michigan. She began her career as an actress and child model, making appearances in a number of movies and TV episodes like “Romeo Must Die” and “Queen of the Damned.”

Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, the debut album she released in 1994 at the age of 15, was produced by R. Kelly. With popular singles like “Back & Forth” and “At Your Best (You Are Love),” the album was a commercial triumph.

It was her most critically praised and financially successful album, “Aaliyah,” which Aaliyah released in 2001. It featured smash songs like “Try Again” and “We Need a Resolution,” which helped establish her as a prominent R&B performer.

Aaliyah’s death in a plane crash on August 25, 2001, at the age of 22, was a major loss to the music business and her admirers. She was widely regarded as one of the most gifted and accomplished vocalists of her time. Fans, reviewers, and other musicians continue to appreciate her legacy.

BeBe Winans

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – JUNE 15: BeBe Winans attends opening night of “May We All: A New Country Musical” at Tennessee Performing Arts Center on June 15, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

American gospel and R&B singer BeBe Winans is from Detroit, Michigan. He is a member of The Winans, a well-known gospel-singing family. He started his singing career with the group The Winans alongside his brothers, then subsequently he launched a solo career, releasing his debut album “Love & Freedom” in 1987. He has had a number of popular albums and singles over his career, including “I’ll Take You There,” “He Promised Me,” and “In Harms Way.” He has performed with several well-known musicians and has been in a number of movies and television programs. Additionally, he has a reputation for supporting numerous charity organizations and engaging in humanitarian activity.

With several Grammy Awards, Dove Awards, and other accolades under her belt, BeBe Winans has achieved great success in both secular and evangelical music.

BeBe Winans is also a skilled actor and television host. He has participated in a number of stage performances and television programs, such as the BET series “BeBe’s Kids” and the NBC drama “Heroes.”

BeBe Winans is still involved in the music business and performs and tours. He has a sizable fan base that likes his expressive and strong voice as well as his capacity to emote through his songs.

Gladys Knight

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 09: Gladys Knight attends the 2018 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on October 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Gladys Knight is an American singer-songwriter hailing from the musical Knight family in Atlanta, Georgia. As a child star in the 1950s, she performed in the band “The Pips,” subsequently known as Gladys Knight & the Pips, along with her brother and cousins. In the 1960s, the group signed with Motown Records and went on to release a number of hit singles, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye).” The group also had a number of other hit singles, including “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination.”

The emotional substance of a song may be interpreted and conveyed by Knight’s strong and soulful vocals, which have earned her praise throughout her career. She has received accolades from several organizations, including the Grammys, Emmys, BET, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has won seven Grammy Awards. She is one of the most recognizable performers of the 20th century and has sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

Knight has a strong acting career in addition to her singing career and has performed in several movies and television series. She is renowned for supporting several organizations and causes and for being philanthropic.

Gladys Knight is still a prominent, active member of the music industry who entertains crowds all around the world. Her contributions to culture and music have received widespread acclaim.

Fred Hammond

fred hammond
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 03: Fred Hammond performs onstage during the Yamaha Night of Worship at the 2022 NAMM Show Opening Day at Anaheim Convention Center on June 03, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for NAMM)

American gospel singer, bass guitarist, and record producer Fred Hammond is from Detroit, Michigan. He began his musical career in the 1980s as a member of the gospel group The Winans. Later, he formed Radical for Christ and issued his 1986 solo debut record, “I Am Persuaded.” He has put out a number of popular albums and hit singles throughout the course of his career, including “I Will Trust,” “No Weapon,” and “He’s Never Failed Me Yet.”

Hammond is renowned for his deep, strong voice and his skill at fusing gospel, R&B, and modern gospel music. He is regarded as one of the most well-known and significant gospel performers of his time and has won several Grammy Awards, Dove Awards, Stellar Awards, and other honors. Additionally, he has a reputation for supporting numerous charity organizations and being a humanitarian.

Fred Hammond is a prominent musician who is also a record producer. He has written songs and produced records for several gospel performers. He has also worked as an actor, making appearances in a number of movies and TV series.

In the gospel music industry, Fred Hammond is still quite active, performing and touring. He has a sizable fan base of admirers who value his music’s ability to evoke strong emotions and his emotional voice.

Harvey Fuqua

NEW YORK – CIRCA 1959: Singer and record executive Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows poses for a portrait circa 1959 in New York city, New York. (Photo by James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Harvey Fuqua was a Detroit, Michigan-born American R&B singer, composer, and record producer. He began his career as a vocalist with the 1950s hit-making group The Moonglows, which featured such songs as “Sincerely” and “Ten Commandments of Love.” Fuqua launched a lucrative career as a record producer after the trio split up in the early 1960s, working with performers including Etta James, Ray Charles, and Marvin Gaye.

Fuqua established the record firm Tri-Phi Records at the beginning of the 1960s, and he later established the record label and production company Harvey Records, which helped launch the careers of several musicians, including Junior Walker and The Spinners.

Fuqua was renowned for his mellow, soulful voice and his skill at fusing several musical styles in his compositions. He was also a songwriter, and several of his songs were performed by other musicians. His contributions to music and culture are highly acknowledged, and he is regarded as one of the key actors in the growth of the Detroit music scene.

Fans, musicians, and reviewers all grieved Fuqua’s passing after his death in 2010. He is regarded as one of the most important and recognizable figures in R&B and soul music history.


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