. o O ( Tom Jones. Tom JONES? TOM JONES??!??!? )
Written by Mel Tillis and Danny Dill, "Detroit City" was first recorded by Bobby Bare in 1963, taking it to #16 on Billboard's country music chart. Since that time, "Detroit City" has become a country music standard, covered by so many artists I suspect there's a requirement written into every Nashville recording contract that you have to cover it at some point in your career. It wan't until 1967 that the Welsh guy in the tight leather pants took it to #23 on the international charts.
"Detroit City" takes the familiar "lonesome, far-from-home" theme of country music and applies it to the great mid-20th Century migration from the farm towns of the American South to the industrialized cities of the North, the final stage of America's transformation from an agrarian society into a mostly urban one.
The viewpoint presented in this song is a typical one for country music: The spiritual emptiness of the Big City, and the wholesomeness of the good ole folks back in your small hometown. It is a distorted viewpoint, cornier than a Nebraska silo in late October. Cotton fields were the last thing most of the participants in the Great Migration North ever wanted to see again. Ever. On the other hand, The Big City was no picnic: It's not unusual to imagine a homesick young man from the South putting up a brave front in letters home, but waking up in a Detroit flophouse (or on Broadway, or even sittin' on the dock of the bay) one morning, after drinking his entire paycheck the previous night, and crying "I'm so lonesome I could cry. Oh, how I want to go home!"