As you look around on the web to try to decide whether to take a job offer in Memphis or go to school in Memphis or for any other reason move to Memphis, I hope you land on this post, because I hate to see anyone cast his or her lot in with this piece of shiatt city.
You can go ahead and skip to the link to hard data I've provided at the end of this post, but take a minute to read my introduction.
I was born here and have lived almost all my life here, six decades so far, except to go away for college. Memphis used to be a far better place to live than it is today. Memphis used to make the best popular music in the world. Memphis used to be safe.
The two main cultural streams that flowed together in Memphis -- the original Delta blues and real hillbilly music -- have dried up and will never flow again, leaving the city in a musical desert punctuated only by the braggadocio of low-life criminal 'hood rats making dumb-ass doggerel verse to the phony simple robotic accompaniment of imported Japanese beat boxes.
Elvis is dead. Otis Redding is dead. Al Jackson is dead. Booker T. Jones moved to Los Angeles and is not coming back. Steve Cropper moved to Nashville and is not coming back. Duck Dunn moved to Florida and is not coming back. Chips Moman moved away, made the mistake of coming back, left again, and is never coming back. Furry Lewis is dead. B.B. King moved to New York City and Las Vegas and is not coming back. Beale Street is a tourist trap.
Don't come here to become a musical star or any other kind of pop culture star. That doesn't happen here anymore.
Memphis has seen a few non-musical business startups of historical note; but the cotton market is no longer centered here, having gone electronic and decentralized. The supermarket was invented here and so was the motor hotel, but the passage of time has dissipated Memphis' headquarters role in those businesses.
FedEx, formerly Federal Express, shows what a good idea and a good education can do when combined with inherited wealth for startup money, and it capitalizes on one of Memphis' historical strengths: roustabout warehouse labor; but it is probably the city's last great business launch. Already, FedEx is building other hubs in other locales; and I fully expect the headquarters itself to move one of these days to a safer and more culturally rich environment.
Memphis is the closest city to the Delta cotton fields that employed a lot of slave labor, and it was on the transportation route from Mississippi to St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit, as blacks fled the South. Too soon, the paternalism of politicians promising a Great Society blunted the potential of freedom and replaced the paternalism of the plantations. Monogamy was never the prevailing pattern of sub-Saharan African peoples, but their embrace of typical American family values after the Civil War was eventually shattered by subsidies that reward old plantation-style bastardy, excess fertility, and households centered around women and missing a husband. White and then also black flight from a worsening urban underclass doomed entire neighborhoods, while the meager socialization in unwed mothers' "homes" fostered a burgeoning tsunami of female parasites and male predators. Memphis is at the top of lists for crime. You do NOT want to live here!
Now here's the promised legit local newspaper piece with recent data about the decline of Memphis, Tennessee. I presume it was painful for them to publish the piece, because bad news like this depresses their market area and the newspaper's own profitability. The [Memphis] Commercial Appeal called the analysis "The Great Migration: Taxpayers pouring out of Shelby County."