‘Detroit, Michigan’: The hidden history of tune Kid Rock performed at Lions’ halftime show

When Kid Rock performed “Detroit, Michigan” at halftime of the Thankgiving day’s Lions game, he wasn’t  just honoring Motor City music history — he was showing off a piece of it.

Hear the Kid Rock version

This is a story about the little song that could.

“Detroit, Michigan,” part of his new “Rebel Soul” album, is actually modeled on a decades-old tune, dusted off and transformed by Rock into a modern hometown anthem.

Rock’s version means belated pay dirt for the original tune’s surviving writer, Mack Rice. He’s tickled that one of Detroit’s reigning stars has embraced a song written nearly half a century ago and forgotten for nearly as long.

“The guy is good,” said Rice, 79. “I’ve never met him, but I love his style.”

Until now, the song’s origins were murky, buried amid the countless tracks churned out during the heyday of the Detroit record business. Recorded in 1964 with a rookie singer who went by Ronnie Love, the single was released by D-Town Records, one of many small labels operating in Motown’s shadow.

“It sold maybe 100 copies,” recalled Melvin Davis, a veteran of the Detroit R&B scene who witnessed the song’s making. “It wasn’t a hit, but it did achieve some airplay around town. And then it just sat around unseen all these years.”

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