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Grammy Winning Motown Singer/Songwriter Barrett Strong Dies at 81

Grammy Winning Motown Singer/Songwriter Barrett Strong Dies at 81

Barrett Strong (Photo: John Mathew Smith-flickr-Wikipedia /CC BY-SA 2.0)
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DETROIT (CelebrityAccess) – Barrett Strong, the Motown vocalist, and hit songwriter died Sunday (January 29), Billboard reports. His death was confirmed by Berry Gordy, who released a statement to Billboard. No cause of death has been revealed. He was 81.

“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,” Gordy’s statement said. “Barrett was not only a great singer and piano player, but he, along with his writing partner Norman Whitefield, 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).’”

Strong was born in 1941 in West Point, MS – the son of a factory worker and housewife. He was raised in Detroit and began his music career singing in church with his four sisters. They toured local churches and met stars such as Jackie Wilson. It was Wilson who introduced Strong to Gordy in 1957, according to Gordy’s memoir To Be Loved.

Strong co-wrote some of Motown’s best-known hits including “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” by Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight, “War” for Edwin Starr, and “Smiling Faces Sometimes” by Undisputed Truth. His co-writing credit on “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” for The Temptations earned him a Grammy award for Best R&B Song in 1973.

He left Motown in the 70s and recorded for Epic and Capitol Records. He also owned and operated a production company called Boomtown out of the Motor City, mentoring young artists. His last release was Stronghold II in 2008.

In addition to his Grammy win, Strong was also a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Songwriters in 1990 and a Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee as of 2004.

Gordy ended his statement regarding Strong’s death by saying, “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.”


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