One man’s Paradise Valley: Marsha Music on Joe Von Battle

Oct 23, 2009 at 4:39 pm
From for MT blogs
In this week’s MT, arts editor Travis Wright writes about the Arts League of Michigan and the move to put Paradise Valley back on the map of Detroit — and the current vocabulary of Detroiters.

And it reminded me that I’ve wanted for some time to pull a few coattails for the blog Marsha Music: A Grown Woman’s Tales from Detroit. Marsha is Marsha Cusic, and her blog is a reminder that just as the personal is political, it’s also musical. She gives her views on Obama, on being the black mother of a biracial child, and observations on city life and growing up here. And some of her richest observations intertwine music and other aspects of her life, like Christmas-time and Motown Revue, or Isaac Hayes and a first date.

I haven’t had a chance to do more than skim — seems like there’s a small book of material posted on the blog already. But her long memorial to her father, the late, legendary Joe Von Battle, is a gem. Serious blues, R&B and gospel fans recognize that name.

Operating for years on Hastings Street, and later on 12th Street until the 1967 riot burned him out, Von Battle captured for posterity the likes of John Lee Hooker, Little Willie John, Jackie Wilson and Sonny Boy Williamson, not to mention the Rev. C.L. Franklin and his 14-year-old, never-recorded-before daughter Aretha. But the story, like all of the good ones, goes beyond music. Marsha captures several decades of one rich life, a rich Detroit life. Whether you start off knowing the name or not, you finish feeling you know the man.