Barrett Strong, a Founding Motown Musician and Songwriter, Dies – NBC New York

Barrett Strong, a Founding Motown Musician and Songwriter, Dies – NBC New York

Barrett Sturdy, considered one of Motown’s founding artists and most gifted songwriters who sang lead on the corporate’s breakthrough single “Money (That’s What I Want)” and later collaborated with Norman Whitfield on such classics as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “War” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” has died. He was 81.

His dying was introduced Sunday on social media by the Motown Museum, which didn’t instantly present additional particulars.

“Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitfield, created an incredible body of work,” Motown founder Berry Gordy stated in a assertion.

Sturdy had but to show 20 when he agreed to let his good friend Gordy, within the early days of constructing a recording empire in Detroit, handle him and launch his music. Inside a 12 months, he was a a part of historical past because the piano participant and vocalist for “Money,” a million-seller launched early in 1960 and Motown’s first main hit. Sturdy by no means once more approached the success of “Money” on his personal, and a long time later fought for acknowledgement that he helped write it. However, with Whitfield, he shaped a productive and eclectic songwriting group.

Whereas Gordy’s “Sound of Young America” was criticized for being too slick and repetitive, the Whitfield-Sturdy group turned out hard-hitting and topical works, together with such timeless ballads as “I Wish It Would Rain” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me).” With “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” they offered an up-tempo, call-and-response hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips and a darkish, hypnotic ballad for Marvin Gaye, his 1968 model considered one of Motown’s all-time sellers.

As Motown turned extra politically acutely aware late within the decade, Whitfield-Sturdy turned out “Cloud Nine” and “Psychedelic Shack” for the Temptations and for Edwin Starr the protest anthem “War” and its broadly quoted chorus, “War! What is it good for? Absolutely … nothing!”

“With ‘War,’ I had a cousin who was a paratrooper that got hurt pretty bad in Vietnam,” Sturdy informed LA Weekly in 1999. “I also knew a guy who used to sing with (Motown songwriter) Lamont Dozier that got hit by shrapnel and was crippled for life. You talk about these things with your families when you’re sitting at home, and it inspires you to say something about it.”

Whitfield-Sturdy’s different hits, largely for the Temptations, included “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “That’s the Way Love Is” and the Grammy-winning chart-topper “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (Generally spelled “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”). Artists masking their songs ranged from the Rolling Stones (“Just My Imagination”) and Aretha Franklin (“I Wish It Would Rain”) to Bruce Springsteen (“War”) and Al Inexperienced (“I Can’t Get Next to You”).

Sturdy spent a part of the Sixties recording for different labels, left Motown once more within the early Nineteen Seventies and made a handful of solo albums, together with “Stronghold” and “Love is You.” In 2004, he was voted into the Songwriters Corridor of Fame, which cited him as “a pivotal figure in Motown’s formative years.”

Whitfield died in 2008.

The music of Sturdy and different Motown writers was later featured within the Broadway hit “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.”

Sturdy was born in West Level, Mississippi and moved to Detroit a few years later. He was a self-taught musician who discovered piano with no need classes and, along with his sisters, shaped a native gospel group, the Sturdy Singers. In his teenagers, he bought to know such artists as Franklin, Smokey Robinson and Gordy, who was impressed along with his writing and piano taking part in. “Money,” with its opening shout, “The best things in life are free/But you can give them to the birds and bees,” would, satirically, result in a battle — over cash.

Sturdy was initially listed among the many writers and he typically spoke of arising with the pounding piano riff whereas jamming on Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” within the studio. However solely a long time later would he be taught that Motown had since eliminated his identify from the credit, costing him royalties for a common customary coated by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many others and a memento on John Lennon’s dwelling jukebox. Sturdy’s authorized argument was weakened as a result of he had taken so lengthy to ask for his identify to be reinstated. (Gordy is among the track’s credited writers, and his legal professionals contended Sturdy’s identify solely appeared due to a clerical error).

“Songs outlive people,” Sturdy informed The New York Instances in 2013. “The real reason Motown worked was the publishing. The records were just a vehicle to get the songs out there to the public. The real money is in the publishing, and if you have publishing, then hang on to it. That’s what it’s all about. If you give it away, you’re giving away your life, your legacy. Once you’re gone, those songs will still be playing.”

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