I have to start this post by making a confession. I’ve gone somewhat easy on Juan Atkins over the past few months, mostly because I understand he is in very poor health. You see, I’m not completely heartless, despite the impression I give. Just mostly so.
However, he’s recently started telling everyone that the past is not important or relevant. This is quite the 360⁰ turn from someone who’s spent most of the past 30 years talking about what has gone before, and his role within it. And now Michael James – who was present when all this stuff was going on – has decided to write it all up for everyone to see.
You can read the whole thing here, but I’m just going to concentrate on a few things. Because the many things that Derrick May has done have been documented and continue to be – trust me, I’m nowhere near finished yet – but Atkins hasn’t received anywhere near the same level of scrutiny.
Juan Atkins, in the words of Michael James, stole “almost the complete identity, philosophy and creativity” of his mentor Rik Davis. It is Davis who should be in the history books. Atkins is barely worthy, in comparison, of being a footnote.
This detailed testimonial of the early days of Detroit techno raises the question of what Juan Atkins can actually do. Can he play? It’s been established now well beyond doubt that Derrick May cannot. Is the same true of Atkins? Is he also a fraud taking credit for things that he didn’t do?
It also leaves Kevin Saunderson facing questions. James does not mention him much in his Facebook post – and on the rare occasions he has, he’s been pretty kind – so what was his role in the middle of this? Was he the Dr Jekyll trying to balance the two Mr Hydes?
We all know now that Derrick May and Juan Atkins did next to nothing worthy of note – so what did the final member of the so-called Belleville Three do all this time? He’s had by far the longest career of the three and also the most stable private life. I can’t help but think I should read something into that…
This one has been running for a while now. I’m not stopping.