Black History Month: Belleville Three—These Cats Took Lemons And Painted Them Gold


These men changed my life. Maybe they also changed yours. Maybe they did and you don't realize it. Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson, the “Belleville Three,” are the undisputed architects of techno. Influenced by disco and its infant offspring, house, these innovators reinterpreted prototypical electronic music to reflect the unyielding urban landscape of their hometown, Detroit. The result was a sound that was both warm and soulful but also icy and forward thinking, as opposed to House music's sometimes throwback feel. To create this music, they reached for instruments that they could afford: the "obsolete" analog drum machines and synthesizers that people pawned off and junked in favor of the glossy new FM synthesis models. It turns out that these old, unwanted devices produced fat, warm, and futuristic sounds that fit perfectly with their artistic vision. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. These cats took lemons and painted them gold.

Black History Month: Belleville Three

Words by Jonathan Keith

[Why does everyone forget about the black technosoul that is Eddie Fowlkes? The man was definitely part of Detroit's first guard. -ED]

Recommended Articles

Essential listening:

Cybotron (aka Juan Atkins) "Clear"
Rhythim Is Rhythim (aka Derrick May) "Strings Of Life"
Kevin Saunderson "Tranzister"
Eddie "Flashin" Fowlkes "Goodbye Kiss"

Related Content