So I blame myself for the extended discussion in the thread of the Zimmerman case. But only here, at POSTMODERN CONSERVATIVE, is it intermingled with an analysis of one of Flannery O’Connor’s first stories. Summer’s here, and the time is right, to read Flannery once more.

I have to admit I have no nostalgia for Detroit, having only been to the airport a few times. Actually, that’s not even true. Everyone my age has nostalgia for the world conjured up by MOTOWN, and so for the Motor City when it really was the motor city.

There’s a good article in the WSJ on Martha Reeves’ (and the Vandellas’) ” Dancing in the Street(s)”—one of the very few absolutely perfect and hyper-evocative top-40 hits. It turns out that the version we hear is so aggressive and so joyful BECAUSE she was ticked off to have to do another take. It also turns out there’s some scholarly dispute over where it’s a song celebrating summer street parties in working-class urban neighborhoods or is some call to revolution.

The SELECTIVE NOSTALGIA the song evokes, we can say for sure, is for the time before “the Sixties” in those neighborhoods, which we all have from music and film, whether on not we grew up in such a place. It’s pretty clear what Martha commands “every guy” to do: “grab a girl” to DANCE WITH.

The working-class neighborhoods in the cities the song mentions were often consumed and sometimes ruined by violence. But the song—and MOTOWN in general— is about a time BEFORE THAT: When a kind of music full of both youthful longing and inherited class—not to mention melody and harmony—had a universal appeal in the neighborhoods “everywhere around the world.”

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Articles by Peter Lawler

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