Poet and author to read excerpts from new book exploring Detroit music

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published June 14, 2017

HARPER WOODS — Local author and poet M.L. Liebler will be performing a reading of his acclaimed book, ”Heaven was Detroit: From Jazz to Hip-Hop and Beyond,” at the Harper Woods Public Library on Monday, June 26.

The book, as well as a second book of poetry called “I Want to Be Once,” was selected to the Library of Michigan’s Michigan Notable Books list for 2017. “Heaven was Detroit” discusses the history of Detroit’s music scene through 50 essays written by local writers, experts and musicians.

“Every year, the Library of Michigan puts out a list of 20 books that celebrate people, places and events. Many of the authors will visit libraries statewide in April, May and June and do book talks,” said Suzanne Kent, the adult services librarian at the Harper Woods Public Library. “Each of the entries in the book speaks to our state’s rich cultural history. Thanks to special funding secured by the Michigan Humanities Council and the Library of Michigan Foundation, several of the Michigan authors will tour libraries. These presentations are free and open to the public.”

The reading will begin at 7 p.m. During the presentation, Liebler will share excerpts from his work that highlight the contributions of various luminaries in local music.

“I reached out to a lot of well-known writers, and I asked them if they would write an essay based either on their experience or based on their knowledge of musical history,” said Liebler. “I also wanted to have some famous people and to feature essays on groups that were important to Detroit history, but maybe not as widely known. My publisher didn’t want to print something that had already been published, so I had to collect fresh material from everyone.”

Liebler’s book covers a wide range of genres and artists from the last century of Detroit musicians.

“We start with a collage of Detroit music and then move forward starting with jazz,” explained Liebler. “It’s mixing the reading with the music, and we close with Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself.’ We talk about the Bluebird Inn and its significance to the jazz scene. We’ll demonstrate John Lee Hooker. We do Jack Scott, who was an early rockabilly guy. We go into Motown and play some Marvin Gaye and Supremes. We kind of slide into the ’70s, and we show off some Alice Cooper.”

Additionally, three local musicians — the Rev. Robert B. Jones, Markita Moore and Charlie Palazzolo — will perform as Liebler reads excerpts from the book. There will be a Q&A session about the book, and refreshments will be served. RSVPs are preferred, and those wishing to attend can call the library at (313) 343-2575 to reserve a seat.

“What I’ve done with this particular show is put together something of interest to people of all ages. It’s not a dry lecture. It involves some humor, some music and some fascinating information,” said Liebler. “I think people will find it to be an enjoyable way to spend an hour or two at the library.”

Liebler said what inspired him to write “Heaven was Detroit” was the impact of the Detroit music scene all around the world — something he witnessed firsthand as he traveled working as an author and poet.

“One of the things is, for a number of years, Detroit music has been of great interest to not only Michigan residents, but to people across the country and the world. Detroit music is popular in places all over the world. There’s something unique about Detroit music, and it catches the ear and there’s so much variety from jazz to hip-hop to country.”

The Harper Woods library administrators said this event will provide the public with a colorful exploration of their shared culture and will entertain them with some great music in the process.

“Readers will find several entries by widely known and respected music writers, critics and recording artists who weigh in on their careers and experiences in the Detroit music scene,” said Kent. “It’s an opportunity to see an internationally known individual and three talented artists together talking about the Detroit music scene, and learn more about their musical heritage.”