Saturday, June 20, 2009



Motor city madness has touched the countryside
And through the smoke and cinders
You can hear it far and wide
The doors are quickly bolted
And the children locked inside

Black day in July
Black day in July
And the soul of Motor City is bared across the land
As the book of law and order is taken in the hands
Of the sons of the fathers who were carried to this land

Black day in July
Black day in July
In the streets of Motor City is a deadly silent sound
And the body of a dead youth lies stretched upon the ground
Upon the filthy pavement
No reason can be found

Black day in July
Black day in July
Motor City madness has touched the countryside
And the people rise in anger
And the streets begin to fill
And there's gunfire from the rooftops
And the blood begins to spill

Black day in July

In the mansion of the governor
There's nothing that is known for sure
The telephone is ringing
And the pendulum is swinging
And they wonder how it happened
And they really know the reason
And it wasn't just the temperature
And it wasn't just the season

Black day in July
Black day in July
Motor City's burning and the flames are running wild
They reflect upon the waters of the river and the lake
And everyone is listening
And everyone's awake

Black day in July
Black day in July
The printing press is turning
And the news is quickly flashed
And you read your morning paper
And you sip your cup of tea
And you wonder just in passing
Is it him or is it me

Black day in July

In the office of the President
The deed is done the troops are sent
There's really not much choice you see
It looks to us like anarchy
And then the tanks go rolling in
To patch things up as best they can
There is no time to hesitate
The speech is made the dues can wait

Black day in July
Black day in July
The streets of Motor City now are quiet and serene
But the shapes of gutted buildings
Strike terror to the heart
And you say how did it happen
And you say how did it start
Why can't we all be brothers
Why can't we live in peace
But the hands of the have-nots
Keep falling out of reach

Black day in July
Black day in July
Motor city madness has touched the countryside
And through the smoke and cinders
You can hear it far and wide
The doors are quickly bolted
And the children locked inside

(C) Music and Lyric by Gordon Lightfoot 1968
Banned from American top 40 radio stations
that same year...except in Detroit.

4/13/68 with Mr. Lightfoot

The Detroit Revolt against the police brutality
predominantly practiced in the overcrowded Black community
started less than five miles from where my family lived.
I remember the clouds of smoke rising, the echo of gunfire,
and having a half track full of national guard troops
level their rifles at us kids as we sat on our porch
after the curfew hours and ordered us back into our house.
The City of Detroit was on lock down.

6-20-09 The Walking Man


  1. I witnessed the riots. The snipers on the roof tops were dangerous and shot at fire fighters and police. Then themselves picked off by helicopters. Though it was described as a race riot, I saw white have nots looting as well. I lived outside of Michigan for five years and met people who left Detroit because of the riots
    supposedly. Saying things like, "they need to be tougher on those people." I would often ask, "What people are you refering to?" I saw people die both black and white have nots. The most scary thing...shots ringing out at night, street lights shot out... darkness and sirens, and the thumping whirlybird helicopters with their spotlights illuminating nearby rooftops.
    More shots fired... Whoa the memory. Thanks for the read and letting me express it. MW

  2. MW...Although some Wikipedia entries characterize those days as a race riot it was not. 1943 WAS definitely a race riot but that is another story for another time.

    One statistic I read was that in the area of the '67 revolt the population density was almost twice that of other areas of the city. People were packed in tight and the powers that be, the banks, the realtor, the police, had all worked to keep it that way. There was a big to do in the years after about Red Lining, the practice where realtors would only show blacks houses in certain areas and police would intensify efforts in minority communities.

    July 23 the police thought they would go into the blind pig and find maybe as many as thirty people, they would ticket most arrest a couple and then it could be called business as usual.

    What they found was closer to a hundred people because there was a welcome home party going on for two men who had just returned from Viet Nam.

    The cops arrested everyone in the house and in the ensuing hours the neighborhood crowd gathered and got angrier with each pair of handcuffs that came out of the door. The breaking point had arrived.

    This was not a race riot, that Black radicalism was just beginning at the time. The King Agenda had not yet been supplanted by the X philosophy.

    This was a revolt against all of the economics of the area, of the city, the state and the nation.

    Unfortunately it became the singular defining moment of Detroit of the last half of the 20th century. What had been a constant steady migration of Whites from the city because of the desire for more room became a flood to get away from the radicalizing Black Power Movement.

    The spreading and building of a larger metropolitan area had been inevitable, the density of the population had been forcing it for years, but the riots turned a page on the orderly transition to a unified metro area to the new chapter of what today is a bitterly divided area along racial and socioeconomic lines.

    Thank you so much for your first hand account, all information only deepens my understanding of why.




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