It is with great sadness that we share the passing of legendary classic Motown singer and songwriter Barrett Strong.
The voice behind Motown Record’s first hit, the iconic “Money (That’s What I Want),” was born in West Point, Mississippi on February 5, 1941 and was raised in Detroit.
After touring throughout the city with his siblings, Strong’s ethereal vocal style caught the attention of Jackie Wilson who introduced him to Berry Gordy. In April of 1959, Barrett was signed to Gordy’s Tamla Records and, later that month, released his first-ever single, “Let’s Rock.”
In July of that same year—after overhearing an in-studio conversation between Mr. Gordy and Motown songwriter Janie Bradford—Strong started playing the piano and, within moments, “Money (That’s What I Want)” was created. The song eventually reached #2 on the U.S. R&B charts, #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 and ultimately #288 on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
Mr. Strong later paired with Motown producer Norman Whitfield to create some of the label’s most successful and critically acclaimed songs including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” made famous by both Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips, Edwin Starr’s “Where I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home), and The Temptations’ 1973’s Grammy Award-winning “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” and 1971’s Billboard charts #1 hit “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me).”
Barrett’s prolific career and contributions as one of Motown’s top lyricists earned him induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.
Barrett Strong died Saturday, January 28, at the age of 81 in Detroit. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and Motown family and fans around the world.
“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.
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, primarily with the Temptations. Their hit songs were revolutionary in sound and captured the spirit of the times like “Cloud Nine” and the still relevant, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today).”
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.”
January 29, 2023
Barrett Strong (R) with Norman Whitfield
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