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It is well-known that the launch of the Ford Mustang in 1964 was an important landmark in automotive history, since its promotion specifically targeted American young adults at an unprecedented level. Motown Records targeted the same market, developing marketing strategies that included automobiles. In June 1965, one year after the official launch of the Ford Mustang, Martha and the Vandellas opened New York disc jockey Murray “The K” Kaufman’s CBS television special “It’s What’s Happening, Baby” with a performance of their new hit “Nowhere to Run.” The program sought to encourage young Americans to work towards an education and/or summer job opportunities; it was sponsored by the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity. Other popular music artists of the era were also featured on the special.

 Martha Reeves The Vandellas 2 341x400 Motown MuseumMartha Reeves The Vandellas image courtesy of the Motown Museum


Martha and the Vandella’s performance was staged on the Mustang assembly line at the Ford Rouge Plant in Dearborn. The performance helped promote both the Ford Mustang and Motown Records. But in the broader historical context of the time, in which automation in manufacturing had workers being replaced with machines on the assembly line, Martha and the Vandella’s hit performed at the Rouge Plant could also refer to a reality that hit Black workers in Detroit especially hard -- workers who, if the victims of such technological displacement, had “nowhere to go.” 



Louise-Helene Filion, Ph.D.



Rebecca Phoenix 



Suzanne E. Smith, Dancing in the Street. Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit, Cambridge (Mass.) and London (England), Harvard University Press, especially pp. 127-130.