Motown legend BARRETT STRONG died yesterday, January 29th. His death was announced on the Motown Museum’s social media. No more details are forthcoming. Strong was 81.
In the mainstream, sadly, Barrett Strong is little known but the soul cognoscenti know how important he was in the evolution of soul in general and Motown in particular. Signed to Motown in 1960, a young Barrett (he was just 19) scored Motown’s first significant hit, the roisterous, rough-edged ‘Money’. Profits from the hit enabled Berry Gordy to start to grow his fledgling empire. Almost as important is the fact that the song went on to be covered countless times, most notably by the Beatles. Their version of ‘Money’ became the rousing climax to their second LP, ‘With The Beatles’. The Fabs’ endorsement of the song and their general espousal of Motown played no little part in broadening Motown’s profile.
Strong quit Motown in 1962 and recorded for Atco and Vee Jay/Tolie before returning to the Motown fold as a songwriter. There, working chiefly with Norman Whitfield, he penned numerous hit songs – classics like ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’, ‘Just My Imagination’, ‘Cloud Nine’, ‘War’ and most famously ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ amongst them.
When Motown relocated to the West Coast, Strong re-commenced his own singing career, recording for Capitol and Epic. His single ‘Is It True’ was a minor hit and his 1975 album ‘Stronghold’ is now a collectors’ item. In 2008, he released its sequel, ‘Stronghold II’ and four years earlier he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Today Berry Gordy posted: “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,”. Temptations founder Otis Williams added, “Barrett has left his indelible stamp… on music history. Our Motown family has lost a beloved brother and extraordinary songwriter.”