Posted by: Kath Usitalo | March 9, 2010

Detroit: Name That Tune

Someone tried to enliven this Song of Detroit with a red pencil; there goes the ebay sale. That's Cadillac, who established the city in 1701, time-traveling to Detroit circa 1931.

It’s tough to sing the praises of a city when the city doesn’t have a song.

Oh, sure, there are dozens of tunes with Detroit in the title, including Detroit Rock City by Kiss, Detroiter Kid Rock’s Son of Detroit, Detroit Breakdown from The J. Geils Band, and Shuttin’ Detroit Down by John Rich (of Big and Rich). There are two titled Detroit City: one by Alice Cooper, who was born in the Detroit suburb of Allen Park, and Bobby Bare’s Detroit City (I Wanna Go Home).

Not quite Tony Bennett leaving his heart in San Francisco, or Frank Sinatra belting out New York, New York.

Probably the biggest hit is Hello Detroit, crooned by that other Rat Packer, Sammy Davis Jr., back in 1984.

What, you don’t know the lyrics to Sammy’s last hit? Local radio stations played it until we were all singing:

Hello Detroit…
You’ve won my heart
Your renaissance, and waterfronts
Give you a flare of your own
Irresistible you
Hug and kissable you
You’re alive with so much feeling…

They loved it in Belgium, where it topped the charts. Really.

Hug and kissable you? Detroit?

As if to add insult to injury, it was a Motown recording. How can the hometown of Motown not have a memorable city song? We have no My Kind of Town, or Do You Know the Way to San Jose. Not even a Shuffle Off to Buffalo.

This is a problem for the ages. In the Great Lakes Gazette archives I unearthed the sheet music for Song of Detroit, which was commissioned in 1931 by Crowley, Milner & Co. for the department store’s 22nd anniversary. Altogether now:

Our city lies under sunny skies by a river so fair…
Swing along
With a song
To a future brighter still
With a heart for any fate
Detroit is Marching on!

Maybe, if Detroit had a decent song—something between “hug and kissable” and Panic In Detroit—the city itself would be singing a different tune.



  1. Oh, I love the note about the colored pencil markings! Reminds me of my Beatles trading cards I unearthed 10 years ago and saw my name proudly scrawled at the top of each one. (Just had to make sure my sister didn’t swipe them.) Literally priceless in all sense of the word!

    • Yea, there goes that fortune. That’s why all those moms wouldn’t let their kids clip the tags off their Beanie Babies!

      Can you believe I saw this sheet music online for $6.99—in near perfect condition. So more than one copy survives.

  2. Really? Top of the charts in Belgium? Crazy! Wonder why?!?

    Hmmmm…..someone like Bob Seger should write one. A good old rock and roll anthem for Detroit…

  3. I was at the Detroit Convention Bureau at the time and we couldn’t understand the Belgian connection either. Wonder if this tune is on the juke box at the Cadieux Cafe in Detroit?

    I agree about Bob Seger!

  4. Damn it Kath! Now I have the Hello Detroit song ringing in my head!!!

    • You’re welcome.
      Hello Hello Hello Hello Detroit!

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