Barrett Strong: I passed grapevine writer and Motown’s first star at 81 | The Art News

Founding Motown musician Barrett Strong, who co-wrote such classics as “I Heard It on the Grapevine” and “Daddy’s a Rolling Stone,” has died at the age of 81.

The Motown Museum confirmed Strong’s death in a series of tweets, paying tribute to his prolific career.

“Barrett is not only a great singer and pianist, but he and his writing partner Norman Whitfield have created an incredible body of work,” Motown founder Berry Gordy said in a statement. said the statement. No further details were released.

Strong was the pianist and lead vocalist on Motown Records’ breakthrough hit “Money” (That’s All I Want), released in early 1960 and later covered by artists including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

That came less than a year after he agreed to let his friend Gordy (who was in Detroit in the early days of building his record empire) manage him and distribute his music.

While he never again came close to Money’s success on his own—the song, ironically, sparked debates about money as he struggled for recognition as a co-writer—he formed a productive and An eclectic songwriting team.

Amy Winehouse to Bruce Springsteen – artists who cover Strong’s work

I Heard It Through The Grapevine was first recorded in 1966 by Gladys Knight and The Pips, and its release by Marvin Gaye two years later became one of the label’s best-selling records of all time. Everyone from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Amy Winehouse covered the track multiple times, and it hit the charts again in the 1980s thanks to an appearance in the famous Levi’s Launderette ad.

The Barrett-Whitfield partners also wrote Cloud Nine and Psychedelic Shack for The Temptations, as well as the protest song War – whose famous refrain is: “War! What is it good for? Absolutely…nothing!” – Edwins Tal.

“In the war, I had a cousin who was a paratrooper and he was badly wounded in Vietnam,” Strong told L.A. Weekly in 1999, and was permanently disabled. When you sit at home, you talk about these things with your family, and it inspires you to say something. “

His other hits with Whitfield, who died in 2008, include “I Can’t Get Next To You,” “That’s The Way Love Is,” and the Grammy-winning chart-topping “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.” .

Artists who have covered their songs have ranged from The Rolling Stones (Just My Imagination) and Aretha Franklin (I Hope It Rains) to Bruce Springsteen (War) and Al Green (I Can’t Get Near You).

Strong was born at West Point, Mississippi, and moved to Detroit a few years later.

A self-taught musician, he learned the piano without taking lessons, and formed a local gospel group called Strong Singers with his sisters.

During his teens, he met artists such as Franklin, Smokey Robinson, and Gordy, who were impressed by his writing and piano playing.

“Songs Outlive People”

Motown's Barrett Strong attends the 35th annual Academy of Pop/Songwriters Hall of Fame inauguration on June 10, 2004 in New York. Photo Credit: Louis Lanzano
Photo: Louis Lanzano/AP 2004

Strong recorded for other labels during part of the 1960s and left Motown again in the early 1970s to produce a number of solo albums, including Stronghold and Love Is You. Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004, he has been described as “a key figure in the formative years of Motown.”

Music by Strong and other Motown writers would later appear in the Broadway hit “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of Seduction.”

According to BMI (Broadcast Music Inc), his old catalog has more than 240 songs.

“Songs outlive people,” Strong told The New York Times in 2013. “The real reason Motown was successful was publishing. Records were just a means of getting the songs out to the public.”

“The real money is in publishing, and if you have publishing, stick to it. That’s everything. If you give it away, you’re giving away your life, your legacy. And once you’re gone, those songs will still be playing.”

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