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Remembering banking and music business icon Don Davis


Don Davis

Don Davis, pioneering artist and businessman, joined the ancestors June 5 at age 75. Davis was born Oct. 25, 1938 in Detroit.

He spent nearly 30 years as chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank, Michigan’s only Black bank. In the 1970s, First Independence played a role in fighting redlining and providing loans to Detroit’s African American community.

Davis was also an award winning writer and producer. He worked during the early days of Motown and also at Stax in Memphis, two leading record labels of the time.  He eventually owned his own record label, Groovesville.

He was known for his work with musical artist Johnnie Taylor, with whom he worked as the producer and songwriter on the 1968 hit “Who’s Making Love.” In his musical career, which spanned 60 years, his long lasting music has been sampled by many artists from Destiny’s Child, to rapper Jay Z. Davis also produced the history making mega hit “Disco Lady,” which was the first single ever to be certified Billboard Platinum.

In a 2009 interview with the Detroit Free Press, he talked about the professionalism and artistic polish Detroit musicians — Motown artists in particular  — brought to the industry — something he recreated at Stax.

Davis described how the “assembly line” process influenced the music. He also described the unique Motown process:  “You had people competing with the songwriting, the producers and musicians crafting identifiable music, and you had the technology to capture this sophisticated music.”

In 1971, Davis bought United Sound studios, one of Detroit’s major recording studios where artists such as Funkadelic, the Dramatics and Gladys Knight performed. He also signed A Band Called Death, the first ever punk act, an African American trio, to his label.

Memorial services will be held June 20 at 6 p.m. and June 21 at 10 a.m. at the Music Hall (350 Madison Ave., Detroit.) Visitation (open to the public) will be held at Swanson Funeral Home (14751 McNichols Road, Detroit) June 19 from 2-8 p.m.

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