Barrett Strong Jr. (February 5, 1941 – January 28, 2023) was an American singer and songwriter known for his recording of "Money (That's What I Want)", which was the first hit single for the Motown record label.[1] He is also known for his songwriting work in association with producer Norman Whitfield;[2] together, they penned such songs as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "War", "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)", and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone".[1]

Barrett Strong
Strong in 1996
Background information
Birth nameBarrett Strong Jr.
Born(1941-02-05)February 5, 1941
West Point, Mississippi, U.S.
OriginDetroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedJanuary 28, 2023(2023-01-28) (aged 81)
San Diego, California, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Years active1959–2023
Sandy White
(died 2002)

In 2004, Strong was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame alongside Whitfield.[3]

Early life edit

Strong was born in West Point, Mississippi, on February 5, 1941,[4] the only boy of six children born to Barrett Strong Sr., a minister. His family moved to Detroit, Michigan, when he was four years old, and his father bought him a piano soon after.[5] Strong began singing at Hutchins Middle School in Detroit, where his classmates included Aretha Franklin and Lamont Dozier.[6]

Career edit

Tamla Records and Motown edit

Publicity photo

Strong was among the first artists signed to Berry Gordy's fledgling label, Tamla Records, and was the performer (vocal and piano) on the company's first hit single, "Money (That's What I Want)",[7] which was recorded live at the music studio where other legendary artists would eventually record. The song reached No. 2 US R&B in 1960. Gordy later disputed claims that Barrett had part in writing this song, stating that Strong's name was only included because of a clerical error.[8] The single was originally released on Tamla, Motown's first label, but was then leased to the Anna label as it was getting airplay, and it was on the Anna label that it was a hit. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA.[9]

"Money"[4] was later recorded by a number of acts, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Kingsmen, Richard Wylie and His Band, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Searchers, the Flying Lizards, the Sonics, and Buddy Guy. Strong expressed that he co-wrote "Money" with Gordy and Janie Bradford; and his name appears on the song's original copyright registration with the United States Copyright Office.

In the mid-1960s, Strong became a Motown writer lyricist, teaming with producer Norman Whitfield.[7] Together, they wrote some of the most successful and critically acclaimed soul songs ever to be released by Motown, including "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by both Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips; "War" by Edwin Starr; "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)" by Marvin Gaye; "Smiling Faces Sometimes" by the Undisputed Truth; and the long line of "psychedelic soul" records by the Temptations, including "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", amongst others.[7]

Strong received a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1973 for "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone". Strong and Whitfield also co-wrote the ballad "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)",[7] a 1971 Billboard No. 1 that also marked the last Temptations single to feature original members Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams.

Albums and founding Blarritt Records edit

After Motown moved its operations base from Detroit, Michigan, to Los Angeles, California, Strong left the label and resumed his singing career.[7] He signed with Epic in 1972.[7] Strong left the label for Capitol Records,[7] where he recorded two albums in the 1970s:[4] Stronghold (1975) and Live & Love (1976).[10] The former reached No. 47 on Billboard's Black Albums chart.[11]

In the 1980s, Strong recorded "Rock It Easy" on an independent label, and wrote "You Can Depend on Me", which appeared on the Dells' The Second Time album (1988).[4] In 1995, Strong founded the record label Blarritt Records.[3][12] He founded the company as a means of providing opportunity and support for aspiring musicians in Detroit;[12] he stated, "Young people were always coming to me: 'Can you help us get something going?' I thought, 'Wow, there's still so much talent here. They just don't have anywhere to go.'"[12] In 2001, he released the album Stronghold II, which he wrote and composed in collaboration with vocalist Eliza Neals, through Blarritt.[3][12] The album would later be re-released in 2008 for digital distribution on iTunes.[13]

Later career edit

Alongside Whitfield, Strong was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.[3]

In 2010, Strong appeared in "Misery", his first music video in his fifty years of recording music, co-produced by Eliza Neals and Martin "Tino" Gross with Strong at the helm.[14]

Death edit

Strong died at home in the La Jolla district of San Diego, California, on January 28, 2023, aged 81.[5] He was survived by seven children and ten grandchildren. His wife of 35 years, Sandy White, died in 2002.[5]

Discography edit

Albums edit

Title Album details Peak chart positions Ref(s)
  • Released: 1975
  • Label: Capitol (ST-11376)
  • Format: LP
47 [11]
Live & Love
  • Released: 1976
  • Label: Capitol (ST-11490)
  • Format: LP
Love Is You
  • Released: 1987
  • Label: Cherie (CR-LP-2007)
  • Format: LP
Stronghold II
  • Released: 2001
  • Label: Blarritt (1310)
  • Format: CD

Singles edit

Year Title Peak chart positions Ref(s)
1959 "Let's Rock" / "Do the Very Best You Can" [16]
1959 "Money (That's What I Want)" / "Oh I Apologize" 23 2 [17][18]
1960 "Yes, No, Maybe So" / "You Knows What to Do" [19][20]
1960 "Whirlwind" (with the Rayber Voices) / "I'm Gonna Cry (If You Quit Me)" [21]
1961 "Money and Me" / "You Got What It Takes" [22]
1961 "Misery" / "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right" [22]
1962 "Seven Sins" / "What Went Wrong" [23]
1964 "Make Up Your Mind" / "I Better Run" [24]
1967 "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"
Recorded by Gladys Knight & the Pips
Co-written with Norman Whitfield
2 47 [25]
1967 "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"
Recorded by Marvin Gaye
Co-written with Whitfield
8 88 1 [26][27][28]
1971 "Just My Imagination"
Recorded by the Temptations
Co-written with Whitfield
1 1 72 8 [25][29]
1972 "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone"
Recorded by the Undisputed Truth
Co-written with Whitfield
63 24 [30]
1972 "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone"
Recorded by the Temptations
Co-written with Whitfield
1 12 42 8 [31][32]
1973 "Stand Up and Cheer for the Preacher" / (Instrumental version) 82 [33]
1975 "Surrender" / "There's Something About You" [34]
1975 "Is It True" / "Anywhere" 45 [35]
1976 "Man Up in the Sky" / "Gonna Make It Right" [10]
1980 "Love Is You" / "You Make Me Feel the Way I Do" [36]
1981 "Rock It Easy" / "Love Will Make It Alright" [10][37]

See also edit

References edit

Citations edit

  1. ^ a b c Italie, Hillel (January 29, 2023). "Barrett Strong, Motown artist known for 'Money,' dies at 81". Associated Press. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  2. ^ "Barrett Strong Biography". Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e Genzlinger, Neil (January 30, 2023). "Barrett Strong, Whose 'Money' Helped Launch Motown, Dies at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d Wynn, Ron (February 5, 1941). "Barrett Strong : Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Rosenwald, Michael S. (January 30, 2023). "Barrett Strong, Motown stalwart who sang 'Money,' dies at 81". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  6. ^ McCollum, Brian (January 29, 2023). "Barrett Strong, Motown trailblazer with 'Money,' the Temptations and more, dies at 81". The Detroit Free Press. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 250/1. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  8. ^ Rohter, Larry (August 31, 2013). "For a Classic Motown Song About Money, Credit Is What He Wants". The New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  9. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 120. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  10. ^ a b c d Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas, eds. (2002). All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul (3rd ed.). Backbeat Books. p. 1095. ISBN 978-0879306533.
  11. ^ a b "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Week of June 14, 1975)". Billboard. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  12. ^ a b c d McCollum, Brian (January 30, 2001). "Songwriter Strong seeks new glory for Detroit scene". The Indianapolis Star. Indianapolis, Indiana. p. E3. Retrieved February 3, 2023 – via
  13. ^ "Motown Legend Barrett Strong re-releases 'Stronghold II' to itunes for Digital Distribution" (Press release). HJN Consulting. October 14, 2008. Retrieved February 3, 2023 – via PRLog.
  14. ^ "'Misery' Eliza Neals – Official Music Video". June 21, 2010. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved August 9, 2013 – via YouTube.
  15. ^ Smith, Will (March 26, 1976). "New Sounds | Silver Service". Omaha World-Herald. Omaha, Nebraska. p. 7. Retrieved February 3, 2023 – via
  16. ^ Marsh, Dave; Bernard, James (1994). The New Book of Rock Lists. Touchstone Books. p. 52. ISBN 978-0671787004.
  17. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 554.
  18. ^ Broven 2010, p. 336.
  19. ^ "Reviews of This Week's Singles". Billboard. May 23, 1960. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  20. ^ Broven 2010, p. 335.
  21. ^ "Reviews of This Week's Singles". Billboard. September 19, 1960. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  22. ^ a b Waller, Don (1985). The Motown Story. Scribner. p. 228. ISBN 978-0684182933.
  23. ^ "Reviews of New Singles". Billboard. May 26, 1962. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  24. ^ Dahl, Bill (2001). Motown: The Golden Years. Krause Publications. p. 317. ISBN 978-0873492867.
  25. ^ a b Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  26. ^ "I heard it through the grapevine in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on February 8, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  27. ^ "I heard it through the grapevine in French Chart" (in French). Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. July 17, 2013. Archived from the original on July 3, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2013. You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Marvin Gaye"
  28. ^ "Marvin Gaye". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  29. ^ "Image: RPM Weekly". Library and Archives Canada. July 17, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  30. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Billboard Books. p. 323. ISBN 978-0823076772.
  31. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4234". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. July 17, 2013. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  32. ^ "Papa was a rollin' stone in French Chart". Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. Archived from the original on September 20, 2013. Retrieved June 16, 2013. You have to use the index at the top of the page and search for "Temptations"
  33. ^ "Billboard Hot Soul Singles". Billboard. September 15, 1972. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  34. ^ "Billboard's Top Single Picks". Billboard. August 16, 1975. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  35. ^ "Billboard Hot Soul Singles". Billboard. June 14, 1975. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  36. ^ "Love Is You / You Make Me Feel the Way I Do". 45cat. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  37. ^ "Barrett Strong Discography – USA". 45cat. Retrieved July 9, 2021.

General and cited references edit

  • Broven, Josh (2010). Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0252077272.

External links edit