Motown Singer Barret Strong Passed Away At 81

Motown Singer Barret Strong Passed Away At 81 | Society Of Rock Videos

via yogadoors / Youtube

Barrett Strong, the man behind the 1959’s hit, “Money (That’s What I Want)” died at the age of 81.

Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown, said in a statement about the passing of Strong:

“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 ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ in 1959. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends. Barrett is an original member of the Motown Family and will be missed by all of us.”

Strong’s family moved to Detroit when he was just a young child. He was born on February 5, 1941, in West Point, Mississippi, and was raised in the Motor City, where he sang in the gospel choir of his church and later made friends with future celebrities Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.

In 1957, Gordy and Strong were introduced by Wilson, and they quickly started collaborating. They would record the first hit for Motown two years later. “Money (That’s What I Want)” unexpectedly came to Strong and Gordy when they were improvising song ideas. In a previous interview, Strong recalled those times saying:

“I was playing, and then that little thing came up and everybody said, ‘What was that?!’ They said, ‘Let’s write some lyrics,’ and we had a song.”

Strong was a Motown songwriter who frequently collaborated with producer Norman Whitfield on classic songs including “War” by Edwin Starr, “Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth, and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which was covered by both Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips.

The Temptations’ “I Wish It Would Rain,” “Just My Imagination,” “Cloud Nine,” “Psychedelic Shack,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” the latter of which won Strong a Grammy Award, were also produced by Strong.

Strong left Motown in 1972. He then signed with Capitol and Epic Records, but the success of his music on both labels was dwarfed by his prior label. Still, Strong was admitted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2016, he recalled his time with Motown:

“It was a great time.

“We were just kids, and we did it for the fun, not the money. We enjoyed being at the studio all day, working. Nowadays people want the money first, which I can understand. But we used to put the product first and figured if we worked hard we would get paid. It was just an era.”

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