Susan Whitall is a pioneer in music journalism, She became one of the first women to be named editor-in-chief of a national music magazine when she rose to the rank of editor of Michigan-based Creem in the late 1970s.
Interviewing and interacting with the emerging and established royalty of rock from Iggy Pop to Led Zeppelin was exciting, but after the death of founder and publisher Barry Kramer, Whitall rose to the serious challenge of keeping the magazine alive and growing.
After nearly eight years at Creem, Whitall joined The Detroit News, where she proved to be a versatile writer with a special gift for pop culture, Michigan history and always, music.
Her stories ran the gamut from humorous features to serious takes on such subjects as the Purple Gang and honor killings. In more than 33 years with the News, Whitall co-wrote a gossip column, reviewed music, profiled musicians and authors and covered national events. Her fans in the music industry include Berry Gordy, who recognized her as the town’s premier Motown expert, and Aretha Franklin, who once called her name out from the stage at DTE Energy Theater. Even Frank Sinatra, who rarely had a good word to say about any journalist, wrote her a note in 1988 thanking her for her review of his Fox Theatre show.
Whitall has won awards for stories on Motown and she led The Detroit News’ award-winning coverage of Aretha Franklin’s death in 2018.
She was an associate producer on the 2020 documentary “Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine.”
Using sources and stories she developed at Creem and The News, Whitall developed those stories into three books: “Women of Motown” (1998), “Fever: Little Willie John’s Fast Life, Mysterious Death and the Birth of Soul” (2011) and “Joni on Joni: Interviews and Encounters with Joni Mitchell” (2018).