American singer Barrett Strong, historic pillar of the Motown label, has died at the age of 81, the Motown Museum announced on Sunday January 29. “It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing of legendary Motown singer and songwriter Barrett Strong”, wrote on Twitter the museum located in Detroit, USA.
It is with great sadness that we share the passing of legendary @ClassicMotown singer and songwriter Barrett Strong… https://t.co/Nm7Eism6rc
He was one of the founding artists of Motown, for which he wrote some of his most famous hits, but also one of its most gifted songwriters. “Barrett was not only a great singer and pianist, but he created, with his writing partner Norman Whitfield, an incredible body of work”Berry Gordy said in a statement quoted by the specialized magazine Billboard. Gordy was Strong’s friend and most importantly the founder of Motown, a phonographic company that would gain immense influence on soul, rhythm and blues and beyond.
Born in Mississippi in 1941, Barrett Strong grew up in Detroit, America’s automobile capital. A self-taught musician, he learned the piano without the need for lessons and formed, with his sisters, a local gospel group, the Strong Singers. As a teenager, he met artists such as Franklin, Smokey Robinson and Gordy, who was impressed by his songwriting and piano playing. It came out in 1959 Money (That’s What I Want)the first hit from the major record company Motown.
Whitfield-Strong, le duo accompli
With Norman Whitfield, also producer of Motown Records, he will participate in the writing of other great successes of the label, including I Heard It Through the Grapevinemade famous by Marvin Gaye in 1968. With this title, they provided a fast tempo hit, call and response, for Gladys Knight and the Pips, and a dark, hypnotic ballad for Marvin Gaye, his 1968 version being one of Motown’s all-time bestsellers. His songs written with Whitfield “were revolutionary in their sound and embodied the spirit of that era”, said Gordy. And to add:
“Barrett was a founding member of the Motown family, and he will be greatly missed. »
Whitfield-Strong’s other successes, mainly for the Temptations, such as Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) (1971), include I Can’t Get Next to You, That’s the Way Love Is et Papa Was a Rollin’Stone » sometimes spelled Papa Was a Rolling Stone), which won a Grammy Award. Artists who cover their songs range from the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin to Bruce Springsteen and Al Green.
Barrett Strong spent part of the 1960s recording for other labels, leaving Motown in the early 1970s and releasing a handful of solo albums, including Stronghold et Love is You. In 2004, he was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, which cited him as “a central figure in Motown’s formative years”.