Martha Reeves will have Ann Arbor 'Dancing in the Street' for kickoff Sonic Lunch concert
AP file photo
“I think for me, personally, and for a lot of people involved, Motown is one of the greatest gifts of music that Michigan has given the world,” said Sonic Lunch curator Matthew Altruda. “For years, we’ve been looking to do something Motown-related for Sonic Lunch. Bringing Martha to Ann Arbor is a dream come true.”
Reeves, in the 1960s, initially worked behind the scenes at Motown Records’ headquarters - appropriately known as Hitsville, U.S.A. - making sure that artists showed up and got paid.And whenever possible, Reeves stepped in to sing (including backing up Marvin Gaye). Her group the Del Phis soon became the Vandellas (a mash-up of VanDyke, the Detroit street where Reeves grew up, and Della Reese, Reeves’ idol); and hits like “Come and Get These Memories,” “Heat Wave,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Jimmy Mack,” and the group’s signature hit, “Dancing in the Street,” followed.
“Each year, we try to bring some type of legendary performer in for Sonic Lunch,” said Band of Ann Arbor president and CEO Tim Marshall. (The bank sponsors the concert series.) “Last year, we brought Mitch Ryder to Ann Arbor - his first-ever visit. And this year, all the stars aligned. (Radio personality) Martin Bandkye had (Reeves’) contact info, so he made the initial contact. One thing led to another, and we were able to bring her. And it worked out even better, because she’ll open up the series.”
More recently, Reeves served as a member of the Detroit City Council for four years, but she’s never abandoned her life as a performer.
Altruda has never seen Reeves sing live, “but when I first looked into booking her, I watched some recent videos of her performing,” said Altruda. “She’s in her 70s now, and she’s still awesome. And at first, I thought, ‘She’ll bring a four-piece band and do a 30-minute set”—but no. She’s bringing a full band, with a horn section, and she’ll do a 70-minute set.”
Though most Sonic Lunch concerts happen in Liberty Plaza, “We’re closing the street, and doing the same setup as we did for Mitch Ryder last year,” said Altruda. “We’ll do the pray-for-no-rain dance, but there’s a roof on the stage, so we’ll be dancing in the streets, even if it’s raining.”
“It will be a great thing for Sonic Lunch, and a great thing for the community,” said Marshall. “It’s not often that a rock and roll Hall of Famer plays a free concert in our community.”