Words by: Brandon Simmons
Motown Records star Barrett Strong has passed away at the age of 81. Strong was Motown’s primary hitmaker and songwriter as the label transitioned through the 1960s.
Born in West Point, Mississippi, Strong was one of the first acts to sign with the startup record label. His first hit, “Money (That’s What I Want)” reached the number two spot on the U.S. R&B chart. This led to Strong writing hits for many artists for years to come. Barrett had a hand in writing songs for The Temptations, such as “Cloud Nine”, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, and “Just my Imagination” to name a few. He helped write Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and Edwin Starr’s “War.”
By the 70s, Strong’s time with Motown was up and he set out to resume his music career, this time behind the microphone. The “Money (That’s What I Want)” artist released albums with Epic Records as well as Capitol Records. His biggest song during that time was “Is It True”. Strong’s career started to dwindle in the 1980s as he started to make less music for himself. He still had the fire to write for other artists and just focused on that. But, in 2008, he decided to release Stronghold II, a sequel to his album, Stronghold.
Motown Records founder Berry Gordy made a statement regarding Strong’s death:
“I am saddened to hear the passing of Barrett Strong, one of my earliest artists, and the man who sang my first big hit. Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player…Barrett is an original member of the Motown Family and will be missed by all of us.”
Barrett Strong received a Grammy in 1973 for his work on the song, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.
His cause of death has not yet been revealed.