Barrett Strong, one of the primary architects of the “Motown Sound,” has passed away, reports CNN. He was 81.
Strong’s passing was confirmed by the Motown Museum in a post on Twitter.
“It is with great sadness that we share the passing of legendary @ClassicMotown singer and songwriter Barrett Strong,” the tweet read.
“The voice behind @motown'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,” the tweet continued.
Born in West Point, Mississippi, Strong eventually relocated to Detroit. After touring with his family’s group, Jackie Willson noticed Strong’s musical gifts and introduced him to his songwriter Berry Gordy who was in the early stages of founding Tamala/Motown Records.
Just a year after their initial meeting, Strong became one of Motown’s first signees. At 20 years old, he played piano and sang on "Money (That's What I Want)." The song went on to sell over a million copies in 1960 and was Motown's first major hit. Strong claimed that he co-wrote the song but Gordy and his legal team contend that Strong’s name only appeared because of a clerical error.
Although he would never reach this level of success again as a solo artist, Strong forged a partnership with producer Norman Whitfield and created numerous classic records for the label.
Strong and Whitfield wrote and produced "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by both Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips; "War" by Edwin Starr, and "Smiling Faces Sometimes" by the Undisputed Truth. Collaborating with The Temptations, they took Motown into the "psychedelic soul” era with enduring hits such as "Cloud Nine," "I Can't Get Next to You," "Psychedelic Shack," "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)," and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," for which they won a Grammy for in 1973.
When Motown left Detroit and moved its operations to Los Angeles, Strong left the label and restarted his career as a solo artist with Epic Records in 1972. After leaving Epic, Strong signed with Capitol Records where he would release two albums in the 1970s.
For his vast contributions to the music industry, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.
In a statement, Gordy praised Strong for his musicianship and songwriting skills.
"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 Gordy.
We at EBONY extend our prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Barret Strong.