Barrett Strong, whose songwriting made him a key figure in the early days of Motown, has died at the age of 81.
Strong was born in West Point, Mississippi in 1941, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He was first introduced to the music industry in the late 1950s, when he began singing with local gospel and doo-wop groups. It was during this time that he caught the attention of Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, who signed Strong to the label as a solo artist in 1959.
Strong’s first single, “Money (That’s What I Want),” was released in 1959 and quickly became a hit, reaching the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song was later covered by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and others.
Beginning the mid-1960s, Strong primarily worked as a lyricist, teaming up with producer Norman Whitfield. The duo wrote and produce some of Motown’s most iconic songs, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (sung by both Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips); “War” (sung by Edwin Starr), and a number of Temptations classics (“Cloud Nine,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Psychedelic Shack,” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me),” and more).
Strong left Motown in the early 1970s and released several solo albums.
For his efforts, Strong was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.
It is with great sadness that we share the passing of legendary @ClassicMotown singer and songwriter Barrett Strong.
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. pic.twitter.com/RvINyjJgccAdvertisement
— Motown Museum (@Motown_Museum) January 30, 2023