Hitmaker Barrett Strong Dies At 81


Barrett Strong, who played a key role in the success of Motown Records, has died at 81.

A cause of death was not immediately disclosed.

“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,” said Motown founder Berry Gordy, in a statement.

Strong, a Mississippi native who moved to Detroit, was a self-taught musician who performed with his sisters in a gospel group. Introduced to Berry by Jackie Wilson, he signed to Berry’s Tamla Records in April 1959 and released his debut single, “Let’s Rock,” only weeks later. He later recorded “Money (That’s What I Want)."

Teaming up with producer Norman Whitfield, Barrett crafted such classics as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “War,” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” “Where I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)” and “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today).”

Gordy said Barrett’s songs were “revolutionary in sound and captured the spirit of the times.”

Barrett won a Grammy award for Best R&B Song thanks to the Temptations recording of “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004. (Whitfield died in 2008.)

Otis Williams, founder of the Temptations, said Barrett left “his indelible stamp” on music history and remembered him as an “extraordinary songwriter.”

In addition to his Motown work, Barrett recorded several solo albums. He suffered a stroke in 2009 that limited his ability to sing and play piano.

“Songs outlive people,” he told The New York Times in 2013. “Once you’re gone, those songs will still be playing.”

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