The Legacy of Motown Songwriting: How These Songs Still Resonate with Music Fans Today
It was a few years ago when Barrett Strong, a singer back then, released the widely-known Motown smash “Money (That’s What I Want).” The singer didn’t think then that this track would become his work as a songwriter to musical immortality. With collaborators such as the late Norman Whitfield, some of Motown’s greatest hits were composed, among them “I heard it through the Grapevine” for Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips, “War” for Edwin Starr and “Smiling Faces At times” by the Undisputed Truth.
An extensive catalog of songs that comes from The Temptations such as “I Would It Would Rain,”” “Just My Imagination,” “Cloud Nine,”” “Psychedelic Shack” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” that earned Strong an Grammy Award, saw him change from a performer to songwriter with ease. Strong, a father and grandfather of six said that he did not feel comfortable as a recording artist. It’s all about the spotlight, fame and the attention I receive do not suit me. My only concern is my favorite thing doing in my studio.
In a press release issued on Sunday Motown Founder Berry Gordy Jr. expressed his sadness over the passing of Barrett Strong, an early artist from Motown who, along with Norman Whitfield created an impressive catalogue of music primarily attributed to “The The Temptations”. While describing Strong being “shy” within his memoir “To be Irritated”, Gordy commended the musician’s piano and vocal performance along with the innovative sound that they made through their collaboration. The songs they released are a reflection of their age.
As a longstanding member of the Motown Family, Barrett Strong will be deeply missed. Alongside his Grammy Award, Strong was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Songwriters in and also was awarded the privilege of being inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame in . In addition to recognizing his contribution, BMI put on a special celebration to honor his memory. He was born on Detroit’s West Side and the son of a Uniroyal housewife and a worker. In his time as a member of a gospel choir which he joined with four of his sisters. The quintet toured the local churches, during which time Strong formed relationships with music big names like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.
On their first visit to the town, it is Wilson who introduced Gordy in the Strongs during . The two formed an instant bond of friendship. Strong often walked to Gordy’s home on the east part of town, to discuss music ideas. In the words of Strong, they would all sit around the piano and sing and play upon every visit. A few days later, Gordy notified him that he appreciated his talent and said he’d like to work with him. The first time they collaborated, it resulted in an album titled “Let’s Rock”/ “Do the Best You Can”, which received local airplay but failed to create a lasting impression nationally.
Gordy along with Janie Bradford wrote the song “Money (That’s What I’m Looking For)” The song was an Top hit on the Billboard Hot and No. The first time it was recorded was by Gordy and Janie Bradford in the R&B chart. In the following years, it was performed by The Beatles as well as the avant-garde music group The Flying Lizards. There are three stories about the song’s origins. Berry states”shy Strong” was the person who “shy Strong” – who performed the vocals and provided piano accompaniment to the song – was uninvited to join the recording session, as he recounts in his memoir To Be Loved. In contrast, Bradford claims that Gordy brought Strong into the room and requested Strong to “give me something”, resulting in the first piano tune.
In the end, Berry Gordy as well as Roquel “Billy” Strong’s collaboration was an inspiring journey that ultimately led to the development of Motown Music and countless hits from artists like those of the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes. Gordy recognized Strong’s potential and welcomed him into his fold and established a close partnership between them which was eventually beneficial through their various successes as a team. Though their very first hit song “Let’s Rock”/’Do the Very Best you Can” may be missed by later success It was the song that got them started on the road to Motown Music.