Ann Arbor has been cultivating a rich music scene for decades. From classically designed venues like Hill Auditorium to intimate, world-class listening rooms like The Ark, musicians of all genres cultivate their groove in Ann Arbor. Here’s a look at four artists who emerged from Tree Town earning national recognition.
Proving that a national audience still appreciates soulful musicians, Laith Al-Saadi brought a new sound to NBC’s “The Voice” with an incredible performance of B.B. Kings The Thrill is Gone and remarkable rendition of Adele’s One and Only. Throughout the program’s tenth season, Laith and his unbelievable guitar solos launched Pharrell Williams to his feet more times than any other contestant.
What Michiganders have known for decades, a national audience was able to watch unfold on national television: Laith Al-Saadi is an enormously talented musician with a distinctive voice, professional attitude, and one of the best guitar players in history.
Ann Arbor is anxious to celebrate with Laith at his homecoming concert at Michigan Theater on Friday, July 8 (tickets on sale June 3). Join fans both new and old for a summer weekend in Ann Arbor full of legendary music.
Like a Rock
Laith often performs tributes to another Ann Arbor native musician and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Bob Seger. One of Seger’s most recognizable songs, “Mainstreet,” was inspired by his life growing up near downtown Ann Arbor. Three albums released between 1976 and 1980 — Night Moves, Strangers in Town, and Against the Wind — were the cornerstones of Seger’s glory years. This charmed period was capped by Nine Tonight (1981), a live album recorded in Boston and Detroit.
Hailed as the ‘Godfather of Punk,’ legendary rocker Iggy Pop grew up in Ypsilanti, just east of Ann Arbor. In 1967, with Iggy Pop at the helm, the Stooges performed punk-rock music before the genre even had a name. With intense power and controversial lyrics, the Stooges went on to produce three albums between 1969 and 1973. The third album, Raw Power, was the result of David Bowie working closely with Iggy Pop after recognizing the quality of the group’s ground breaking songwriting. Iggy Pop went on to work with Bowie as a solo artist, producing two of Iggy Pop’s most acclaimed albums.
It’s impossible to grow up in southeastern Michigan and not be influenced by Motown and Soul artists, such as Smokey Robinson and Isaac Hayes. Mayer Hawthorne, who was born and raised in Ann Arbor, has embraced a perfect blend of vintage soul with progressive arrangements. A Grammy-nominated singer, musician and DJ — Mayer’s biggest hit, “The Walk,” made it to #45 on U.S. charts in 2011. His most recent album, Man About Town was released on April 8.
The Ann Arbor music scene has depth and power beyond these four artists — fueled by talent attracted to the area through the University of Michigan. The four mentioned above were raised in the area, spending their formative years influenced by the city’s culture and people. These native sons are beloved by Ann Arborites, and will always receive a warm welcome when they return home.