The sound of Motown, with its signature rhythm and blues combined with pop elements, would never have attained its emblematic and iconic status without the talents of singer and songwriter Barrett Strong, who came out with one of Motown's first hits, and then later became a key cog in the music empire as a songwriter.
Sadly, Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. announced Sunday that Strong had passed away this weekend at the age of 81. In a statement, Gordy Jr. praised Strong's singing and piano prowess while also recognizing his "incredible body of work" and hit songs that were "revolutionary in sound and captured the spirit of the time."
“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 … 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 … Barrett is an original member of the Motown Family and will be missed by all of us," Gordy Jr. wrote.
Strong's hit single "Money (That's What I Want)" helped bolster early Motown, but it is in his songwriting where he truly shined. He co-wrote iconic songs such as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine” for Marvin Gaye, “War” for Edwin Starr, and a plethora of songs for The Temptations, including “I Wish It Would Rain,” “Just My Imagination,” “Cloud Nine,” “Psychedelic Shack” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” which earned Strong a Grammy nod.
Strong's cause of death is unknown, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
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