Northville Native Showcases Famous Detroiters in New Book
"Heart Soul Detroit" features photographs and interviews with 51 visionaries who came from Detroit.
We all know the stories of despair and deprivation that come out of Detroit, but one Metro Detroit native is looking to shine some light on dozens of successful and influential people who have called Detroit their home.
Matt Lee, who grew up in Plymouth and Northville, is the editor of the new book Heart Soul Detroit, which profiles 51 famous people from Detroit.
The book includes photos and interviews with Tim Allen, Eminem, Jack White, Nicklas Lidstrom, Al Kaline, Smokey Robinson, Jerry Bruckheimer, Barry Sanders and Bill Ford Jr.—just to name a few.
"To me, it's just a celebration of the city, and I think it raises a lot of interesting questions about what it means to be from that area and what bonds the people together," Lee said.
Jenny Risher, who Lee met while he was working for Hour Detroit Magazine, came up with the idea for the book a few years ago while talking with fashion icon Veronica Webb.
By that time, Lee had moved on to his current job as the editor of a men's magazine in Chicago, but Risher asked him if he would be interested in helping put the book together.
Over the next few years, Risher met with the famous Detroiters to photograph and interview them. Lee researched each person and helped compile many of the interview questions. Risher recorded the interviews and hired someone to transcribe them. Lee then whittled the interviews down to shorter pieces for the book.
Although Risher did the majority of the interviews, Lee interviewed several of the people himself. He said everyone was interesting, but a few people stick out in his mind.
Rock artist Ted Nugent, for example, was a fun person to talk to. "I think I asked one question and he went on a 25-minute dialogue. That was really funny," Lee said.
Lee also did an interview with Dr. Jack Kevorkian before the controversial doctor's death.
"That was fascinating because talk about someone that's going to be remembered for a really long time...The more you learn about him and that issue, I think the more you realize that our country and our society hasn't really dealt with at all, and I think people are going to be talking about what he did for a very long time," Lee said.
Lee said that once they were able to sit down with the Detroiters, everyone really opened up and became intense about telling their story.
"I think when people read it, that they'll learn a lot. Even if you think that you know about a lot of these people, hearing it in their own words is pretty cool," Lee said.
Lee said he can see that the people interviewed for the book share a lot of personality traits that are distinctly Detroit, such as independence, grit and resilience.
"A lot of these people had no real reason to think that they were going to succeed other than their innate self-belief, which is impressive," he said.
Lee said many of the interviewees, such as Eminem, Jack White and Iggy Pop were able to build their own careers out of nothing and ended up having a big impact on the world.
"There's a lot to be proud of of the people in the book, individually and as a whole," he said. "They are all Detroiters and they really were visionaries."
Copies of the book are expected to be in stores in late February or early March, and you can pre-order a copy online at heartsouldetroit.com. A portion of the proceeds from each book sale will be given to Focus: HOPE.