Barrett Strong, Motown Singer & ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ Songwriter, Dead at 81

Barrett Strong, Motown Singer & ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ Songwriter, Dead at 81


Barrett Strong, one of Motown’s founding artists and the singer/songwriter behind the label’s first hit has died at the age of 81.

His death was announced Sunday (Jan. 29) on social media by the Motown Museum, which did not immediately give a cause of death. They wrote,

“It is with great sadness that we share the passing of legendary @ClassicMotown singer and songwriter Barrett Strong. The voice behind @motown‘s first hit, the iconic “Money (That’s What I Want),” was born in West Point, Mississippi on February 5, 1941 and was raised in Detroit.”

Motown founder Berry Gordy also confirmed the death of Barrett Strong. He said in a statement:

 “I am saddened to hear of the passing of Barrett Strong, one of my earliest artists, and the man who sang my first big hit. Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitefield, created an incredible body of work, primarily with the Temptations. Their hit songs were revolutionary in sound and captured the spirit of the times like ‘Cloud Nine’ and the still relevant, ‘Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today).'”

Strong became one of the first artists signed to Berry Gordy’s Motown Records. In 1959, Strong recorded ‘Money (That’s What I Want),’ marking the label’s seventh release.

Producer Norman Whitfield, who’s regarded as one of the creators of the ‘Motown Sound,’ collaborated with Barrett Strong on a number of hit records including Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine,’ Edwin Starr’s ‘War’ and Temptations ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.’

Strong was only 19 years old when his hit single ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ catapulted Motown’s success. Unfortunately, Strong never again approached the success of ‘Money’ on his own, and decades later fought for acknowledgment that he helped write the tune.

Strong and Whitfield would go on to create a number of top-selling tracks for the label. Temptations, ‘I Wish It Would Rain’ and ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)’ were met with critical and popular acclaim, while Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ became an all-time top seller for Motown.

Barrett Strong also played a key role in producing more politically conscious records later in the decade, such as ‘Cloud Nine’ and ‘Psychedelic Shack’ for The Temptations, and the protest anthem ‘War’ for Edwin Starr.

Strong told LA Weekly in 1999:

“I had a cousin who was a paratrooper that got hurt pretty bad in Vietnam. 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.”

Strong spent part of the 1960s recording for other labels and left Motown again in the early 1970s. He made a handful of solo albums, including ‘Stronghold’ and ‘Love is You.’ In 2004, he was voted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, which cited him as “a pivotal figure in Motown’s formative years.”

Our condolences go to Brett Strong’s family during this difficult time. 

[Source: 1, 2 ]


Authored by: Monique Nicole