Barrett Strong, a pioneer of Motown, passed away at age 81.

No information regarding the circumstances surrounding the singer’s passing was provided by the Motown Museum on Sunday (29.01.23), although he was recognized for his collaborations with his writing partner Norman Whitfeld, who passed away in 2008.

Barrett’s big break came from Berry Gordy, the head of the record company, who said of him: “Barrett was not only a wonderful vocalist and pianist, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitfield, generated an unbelievable body of work.”

Before relocating to Detroit, where the record label that gave the world Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, and many others is based, Barrett was born in West Point, Mississippi. After establishing himself as a self-led musician, he started a gospel group with his sisters before coming into contact with the people who would eventually mold his career.

After engaging in a legal battle to be listed on the credits of Ray Charles’ hit song “What I’d Say” in 2013, the writer of “Heard It Through the Grapevine” acknowledged his songs would “outlive” him. He already had a back catalog that included Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and numerous hits for the Temptations.

Songs outlive humans, he asserted. Motown was successful mostly due to its publishing. The albums were merely a means of disseminating the tunes to the general public. If you have publication, hold onto it because that is where the big money lies. That is the main focus. Giving it away is giving your life and your legacy away. Those tunes will continue to play when you are gone.

The “Love is You” hitmaker, who left Motown in the 1970s, was recognized as “a vital influence in Motown’s early years” and was elected into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.


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